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WADA Revises Meldonium Guidelines, Increasing Leniency

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has revised its guidelines for athletes whose urine samples tested positive for the prohibited metabolic modulator meldonium, according to a document posted to the organization’s website on Thursday. The update allows much more leniency for athletes with traces of the drug found in their urine samples until September 30, 2016. It also places the onus on sports federations to determine whether the athletes used the drug before or after it was added to the Prohibited List on January 1.

Since then, at least 172 athletes have tested positive for the substance. At that time some, like tennis star Maria Sharapova, did not notice the that the drug was newly classified as banned and continued to use the it. Others claim to have stopped using the drug before January 1, but the substance still showed up in their urine samples.

Before this year, little research had been done into how long the drug stays in the human body. WADA has been undertaking a more complete research effort to determine whether those athletes’ claims are valid.

WADA has not released results of their studies, but the organization says that based on initial findings it has revised its estimates upwards. In April, a directive suggested that athletes with concentrations lower than 1 μg /mL up through the end of February could receive a “no fault” judgement. This released several athletes, including two biathletes and a cross-country skier, from their provisional suspensions.

In Thursday’s posting, WADA revised that limit up to 5 μg /mL, and applied the 1 μg /mL limit all the way through September 30. In both cases, WADA wrote that a no-fault finding could be made “In the absence of other evidence of use on or after 1 January 2016,” seemingly leaving it up to the individual sports federations adjudicating the cases to either take the athletes at their words, or else to find a way to investigate the timing of their drug use.

The previous pilot studies had shown that meldonium excretion after a manufacturer-recommended dose of meldonium quickly dropped below 1 5 μg /mL.

WADA also wrote that if there was no other evidence of using the drug after September 29, 2016, when it was announced that meldonium would be added to the Prohibited List, an athlete’s results should not be disqualified – and if they had been already, then those results could be reinstated.

Likely dozens more athletes may now hope for a return to competition, among them professional boxer Alexander Povetkin, whose team already celebrated the new guidelines as vindication even though he was never mentioned by name.

WADA released the update with little fanfare. There have been no comments from media personnel or leadership; the document was not posted on the organization’s social media; nor is it posted to the landing page of their website.

IOC Backtracks on Part of IAAF Decision; No Russian ‘Neutral’ Athletes in Rio

“We have come to a unanimous declaration,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday after an Olympic Summit which convened heads of international federations in the Olympic movement. “All the stakeholders have come to the unanimous declaration … the Summit confirmed their respect and approval and support for the decision having been taken by IAAF last Friday.” That decision, by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), would have nearly completely barred Russian track and field athletes from competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Russian athletics have been embroiled in a doping scandal. The international federation decided that only those athletes which could individually prove — “clearly and convincingly” — that they had not doped, for instance because they were living outside of Russia and had been repeatedly tested by an accredited and respected antidoping agency, could compete. And notably, the IAAF…

New Documentary Alleges Russian Interference with FIS, IBU Anti-Doping Efforts (Updated)

A new documentary by German journalist Hajo Seppelt aired on ARD last night, alleging further involvement of Russian officials in hampering anti-doping efforts. While one of the biggest news items was that Russian Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko was personally implicated in hiding a positive doping test by a soccer player, nordic sports were directly mentioned for one of the first times in Seppelt’s work. Specifically, RUSADA allegedly warned head coaches and athletes ahead of doping controls ordered by the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Biathlon Union (IBU). FasterSkier has reached out to the federations for comment. The documentary is available here in German and here in English.

Russian Cross-Country Skier Tests Positive for Meldonium

A Russian cross-country skier who placed in the top 30 at Russian nationals last weekend, Kirill Vitsjuzjanin, has tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited use of the drug, a metabolic modulator, starting Jan. 1, 2016. Vitsjuzjanin, 23, apparently took meldonium last September based on a prescription from his doctor, Langrenn reports. His father and trainer Petr Vitsjuzjanin said that his son used the substance last year, before it was banned. Earlier this year, he passed a doping test but a sample taken in March was found positive for the substance. “I am shocked,” his father said. “The situation is embarrassing for me.” Vitsjuzjanin has never competed in a World Cup, but placed 22nd and 27th at Russian nationals last weekend in Tyumen. Several Russian athletes have also tested positive for the banned substance, including tennis star Maria Sharapova and skate printer Pavel Kulizjnikov. Two Ukrainian biathletes have open cases with…