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Russian sports minister says meldonium may be off doping list

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PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, March 12. /TASS/. Meldonium may be taken off the list of banned substances of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Russia’s Minister of Sports Vitaly Mutko said in an interview with the Vesti on Saturday weekly television program.

As of today, Russia’s ten athletes have been accused of using meldonium.

"The history of Russian sports knows the story with bromantane, because of which many Olympic champions were disqualified," the minister said. "Later on, we proved the drug did not comply with two criteria (to be put on the list of banned drugs - TASS). But this is a separate topic. Do I allow opportunity of the kind regarding meldonium? Yes, I do."

The drug meldonium (mildronate) was included in the list of preparations banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency from January 1, 2016, after which several Russian athletes tested positive for the banned substance.

The presence of this formula in the athlete’s blood during and between competitions is a violation of anti-doping rules. The substance belongs to S4 class on the WADA blacklist (hormones and metabolic modulators).

Those who have proved to have used meldonium since are cyclist Eduard Vorganov, figure skater Yekaterina Bobrova, tennis player Maria Sharapova, skater Pavel Kulizhnikov, short-track skaters Semion Elistratov and Ekaterina Konstantinova, volleyball player Aleksandr Markin and biathlete Eduard Latypov.

Meanwhile, Latvian pharmaceutical firm Grindex, the producer of mildronate, said on its website on Wednesday that "Mildronate is widely used in the clinical practice. During increased physical activity, it restores the oxygen balance of tissue cells as well as it activates the metabolic processes that results in lower requirements of oxygen consumption for energy production. Mildronate is widely recognized by health care professionals and patients, and this may include athletes as well."

WADA didn’t explain Grindex the causes of including mildronate into the list of prohibited substances, company spokeswoman Klavina told TASS.

"Grindex is providing all possible information on the product to WADA," the spokeswoman said.

However, "WADA is not giving us any information to explain why the substance meldonium contained in mildronate was included in the list of banned substances. It was reported in the media space that mildronate may be harmful for health in large quantities. But any preparation can do harm, if it is used without control, even vitamins B and C," the spokeswoman said.

The Grindex representative didn’t confirm the commercial reasons of the scandal around the inclusion of mildronate into the list of prohibited substances.

"Various assumptions around this situation may appear. But it is proofless to look for commercial or even political reasons of what has happened - these are speculations on the situation. We don’t have such information. Our work consists in communicating with doctors, pharmacists and consumers of the product," she added.

The situation around the inclusion of mildronate containing meldonium into the WADA blacklist boosted its sales, the Grindex spokeswoman said.

"In the wake of the developments around the prohibition of mildronate, it has become more popular and in greater demand. We are receiving messages from patients, doctors and pharmacists from various countries," Klavina said.

"Its sales increased. But I want to stress that this is a medicine and should be used on the doctor’s prescription," the spokeswoman said.

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