The Anti-Doping Appeal Panel of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) has blacklisted the husband of a Commonwealth Games athlete for allegedly supplying the banned drug meldonium to decathlete Jagtar Singh.
Meldonium became famous after tennis superstar Maria Sharapova tested positive for it in 2016. Meldonium (chemical name mildronate) is manufactured by the Latvian company Grindeks, and is prescribed for ischemia, a condition in which there is an insufficient flow of blood to tissues, which are then starved of oxygen and glucose. Meldonium gives those suffering from heart and circulatory conditions more “physical capacity and mental function”. Though not approved by the US FDA, the drug has been easily available over the counter in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Because meldonium aids oxygen uptake and endurance, several athletes have been caught using it. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) put it on the list of banned substances in September 2015, and the ban went into effect on January 1, 2016. A study published in Drug Testing and Analysis in 2015 concluded that the drug “demonstrates an increase in endurance performance of athletes, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activations of central nervous system (CNS) functions”.
Grindeks has said meldonium can provide an “improvement of work capacity of healthy people at physical and mental overloads and during rehabilitation period”, and that it believed the substance would not enhance athletes’ performance in competition, and might even do the opposite.
Former European figure skating champion and a member of Russia’s gold-winning team at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Ekaterina Bobrova, has tested positive, as has Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov. In 2013, Swedish media reported that the 2013 1,500 m world champion Abeba Aregawi had tested positive.
A number of athletes were using it before it was banned. (Sharapova claimed that she was unaware that the ban had come into effect.) In 2015, anti-doping group Partnership for Clean Competition said meldonium was found in 182 of 8,300 urine samples it tested as part of a study. WADA confirmed at the time of the Sharapova scandal that since the ban, meldonium had been found in 55 samples.
Jagtar dropped out of the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar in July 2017 after he failed an in-competition dope test given by NADA during the Federation Cup in Patiala the previous month. Last month, his ban was reduced from four years to two, after he provided “substantial evidence” that helped bust a ring of illegal performance-enhancing drug suppliers. NADA, under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, is “responsible for promoting, coordinating, and monitoring the doping control programme in sports in all its forms in the country”.