The Current

Meldonium makers say banned drug not performance enhancer

Tennis star Maria Sharapova is just one of many Russian athletes linked to the banned substance called meldonium this year. The Current looks at meldonium and its effects - on athletes and sports.
Maria Sharapova of Russia admitted to failing a doping test and revealed her use of the banned substance meldonium. (Aaron Favila, File/AP)

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Russia has pulled almost its entire under-18 hockey team just before it was set to depart for the World Championships in North Dakota. The last minute substitution of younger players was made without official explanation but Russian media are reporting that many of the players had tested positive for meldonium. 

Volleyball and curling teams from Russia have also had some last minute line-up changes in recent days. Team coaches are denying that it had anything to do with the drug.

Of the 158 athletes who have tested positive for meldonium — banned in January — 30 are Russian. And that includes some of the country's top athletes — a world championship swimmer, Yuliya Efimova, and an Olympic gold medallist speedskater, Pavel Kulizhnikov.

In Nov. 2015, Russia's track and field team was banned from international competition following a sensational report by an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency. It found evidence of state-sponsored doping and large-scale corruption.

World Anti-Doping Agency chairman Dick Pound said Russia's track and field athletes should be banned from the 2016 Olympics. It still hasn't been decided whether the Russian track and field team will be allowed to compete in the Rio Olympics this summer. The decision is expected in May.

Guests in this segment:

  • Dr. Andrew Pipe, chief of the division of Prevention and Rehabilitation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He has been a physician at several Olympic Games, and is the former chair of the prohibited list committee of the World Anti Doping Agency, which is the group that made the decision to ban meldonium
  • Michael A. Reynolds, associate professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian studies at Princeton University.

This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli, Willow Smith and Paula Last.