Featured Articles

5 things to know about meldonium, the drug that brought Maria Sharapova down

5 things to know about meldonium, the drug that brought Maria Sharapova down

Five-time grand slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova has been suspended from the International Tennis Federation for doping.

The news comes after Sharapova announced in March that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January.

According to Sharapova, she had been using the recently banned drug meldonium for the past 10 years — or most of the time she’s been a pro tennis champion — because of a variety of medical conditions.

Meldonium is prescribed primarily to treat conditions like heart failure. But Sharapova justified her use of the medicine because of her magnesium deficiency, “irregular” EKG results, and a history of diabetes in her family that put her at a higher risk for the disease — reasons cardiologist Eric Topic told Vox “make no sense at all.”

What’s more, the AP reported that officials at the Latvian company that makes the drug said it’s usually only prescribed for courses of four to six weeks.

Here are five things to know about the drug that got Sharapova into doping trouble.

1) The primary purpose of the drug: treating heart conditions

drug

Mildronate, or meldonium. (Grindex)

According to the drugmaker’s website, meldonium is primarily used to treat heart-related conditions — like angina pectoris and heart failure — that block blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. The drugmaker also says meldonium can also improve “physical capacity and mental function” in healthy people.

Interestingly, the drug was originally developed as a non-antibiotic growth promoter for animals. “The inventors were granted a U.S. patent (PDF) for this use in 1984 but it does not appear to be sold today for agricultural use,” writes David Kroll at Forbes.

2) The drug also increases athletic endurance

A study in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis on the use of meldonium in professional sports finds the drug can lead to “improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activations of central nervous system functions.”

3) The World Anti-Doping Agency only officially banned meldonium this year

Sharapova

Sharapova hits a forehand slice just to keep the ball in play. (YouTube)

Because of evidence that athletes were using the drug, the World Anti-Doping Agency had been monitoring meldonium since 2015. It added the drug to its list of banned substances on January 1, 2016.

Meldonium has been classified by the agency as an S4 substance, along with other hormone and metabolic modulators. (Many of these drugs either interfere with hormone function or regulate blood sugar in the body.)

Sharapova said she did not read the email memo that would have informed her about the recent ban.

 

4) It’s popular in Baltic countries and was once used by Russian troops as a stamina enhancer

The drug was developed in Latvia and is currently made by the drug company Grindeks. It’s used primarily in Baltic countries like Latvia, as well as Ukraine, and Poland. (Almost all the clinical evidence on the drug is published in Polish and Russian clinical journals.) But in the 1980s, the AP reports, it was widely used among Russian troops to enhance their stamina while fighting in Afghanistan.

The FDA has not approved the drug for sale in the US, nor has the European Medicines Agency.

5) Sharapova is not the first athlete to get slammed for using this drug

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, other athletes have been slapped on the wrist for using the drug this year, which makes Sharapova’s claim about not knowing that it was recently banned seem dubious.

As sports journalist Ronny Lerner notes, “Two Ukrainian biathletes and Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov have already been caught as well as Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova, who is a European champion ice dancer.”

The New York Times reports that in October, before the WADA ban went into effect, an anti-doping group found meldonium in the urine samples of 182 of 8,300 athletes.


Click to add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seventeen − seventeen =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Featured Articles
@garbersports

Garber Sports Chief Editor

More in Featured Articles

Football Didn’t Come Home, But The Three Lions Can Roar Into The Future

Babatunde KolawoleJuly 12, 2021

What next for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City after UCL final heartbreak?

Babatunde KolawoleMay 31, 2021

Europa League Final Defeat Exposes Solskjaer’s Big-Moment Weaknesses Again

Babatunde KolawoleMay 27, 2021
UEFA CONFERENCE LEAGUE LOGO

UEFA CONFERENCE LEAGUE: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Babatunde KolawoleMay 21, 2021

What are the options for Sergio Aguero after City departure?

Babatunde KolawoleMay 3, 2021

Everything you need to know about the European Super League and its effect on the UEFA Champions League

Babatunde KolawoleApril 19, 2021

HAS MIKEL ARTETA DONE ENOUGH FOR ARSENAL FANS TO ‘TRUST THE PROCESS’?

Babatunde KolawoleApril 5, 2021

Kelechi Iheanacho Can Finally Sing The Redemption Song

Babatunde KolawoleApril 2, 2021

Rat-Battles To World Titles: How Francis Ngannou Became A World Champion

Babatunde KolawoleMarch 31, 2021