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Too early to speak of Russian athletes’ amnesty after WADA’s decision — sports minister

April 13, 14:46 UTC+3 MOSCOW
WADA earlier announced that the concentration of less than one microgram of meldonium in the body system of an athlete, whose doping tests were conducted before March 1, was acceptable
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Russian Sports minister Vitaly Mutko

Russian Sports minister Vitaly Mutko

© Artiom Korotaev/TASS

MOSCOW, April 13. /TASS/. Russian Sports minister Vitaly Mutko said on Wednesday it was still early making conclusions that all national athletes would be amnestied after recently announced thaw of requirements concerning banned substance meldonium.

Earlier in the day, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced that the concentration of less than one microgram of meldonium in the body system of an athlete, whose doping tests were conducted before March 1, was acceptable and the athlete at the issue was not a subject to any sanctions whatsoever.

"It is premature making such conclusion on the amnesty," Mutko said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television channel. "This is only a recommendation from WADA, which held a research and found out that one of the peculiarities regarding meldonium is that it takes up to two months for the substance to leave the body system."

According to the minister, most Russian athletes suspended for using meldonium were tested before March 1.

"Those athletes - there are 37 of them - who remain suspended at the moment, might considerably reinforce the Russian team at the Olympic Games. Most of them are on the lists of those who were tested before March 1," Mutko said.

"WADA is cooperating with Russian scientists. The chances (of an amnesty) are high, but let us not anticipate events. Let us proceed from a concrete decision. Each athlete has one’s own stance and enjoys the support of the federation and their lawyers. I do hope that these cases will begin to be considered in ten to fifteen days to come.

According to WADA recommendations extra tests will be needed to identify the date when the medical drug was taken, if the concentration of the substance is between one mcg and 15 mcg in a sample taken before March 1, or if it is under 1 mcg, but the sample was taken after March 1. In either case it will be up to the federation concerned to make a decision in favor or against temporary disqualification. All other cases will be subject to further investigation.

The drug meldonium (mildronate) was included in the list of preparations banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) from January 1, 2016. The presence of the meldonium substance 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).

Meldronate is a cardiovascular preparation freely available for purchase at pharmacies across Russia without doctor’s prescription.

According to WADA’s data, a total of some 140 doping samples worldwide tested positive for meldonium, including up to 30 Russian athletes. Among them are tennis star Maria Sharapova, Olympic medalist in swimming Yulia Efimova and Olympic medalist in speed skating Pavel Kulizhnikov.

Russian sports was in the center of doping-related scandals since the fall of 2014. Since early February control over doping abuse in Russian sports has been exercised by RUSADA only under the supervision of the British anti-doping agency (UKAD).

Last week Mutko announced that UKAD was taking up to 200 doping samples from Russian athletes each month.

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