NEW YORK: Maria Sharapova and scores of other athletes who have tested positive for meldonium could be handed a lifeline after the World Anti-Doping Agency said there was a lack of scientific evidence about how long the drug stays in the system.
Amid growing confusion about the status of an avalanche of positive tests for the drug, which was banned on 1 January this year, Wada said its preliminary tests showed that it could take weeks or months for the drug to leave the body. In such cases, athletes “could not reasonably have known or suspected” that the drug would still be present in their bodies after 1 January, said WADA in a “clarification paper” to its code signatories on how they should prosecute meldonium cases.
“In these circumstances Wada considers that there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete,” it added. Sir Craig Reedie, the president of Wada, said: “It is designed to explain the science that we know. The issue that it deals with is the time this drug takes to come out of the system. It’s an attempt to clarify the many questions that we’ve been asked.”
The Russian sports ministry and national Olympic committee welcomed the Wada statement, and the country’s officials suggested there could be a mass amnesty of Russian athletes.
The head of the Russian tennis federation (RTF), Shamil Tarpishchev, told the R-Sport agency he hoped Sharapova would be able to play at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, while the head of the Russian swimming federation suggested there could be a swift return to competition for the suspended world champion Yulia Efimova.
A Wada spokesman said talk of an amnesty was “wide of the mark” and that the document was designed to clarify the position.
Sharapova confirmed last month that she had tested positive for meldonium during the Australian Open. She was one of 172 athletes, many of them Russian, to test positive for the drug since it was banned in January.