Meldonium: What Is It and Why Is It Banned in the Olympics?
Panties were in a bunch when Alexander Krushelnitsky came up positive in a drug test for Meldonium at the 2018 Winter Olympics. If you didn't know, he is a 25-year-old who won a bronze medal with his partner and wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova, in curling.
Curling? Yes, curling.
What is Meldonium?
Other than sounding like a toxic chemical, Meldonium helps increase blood flow. This increases your exercise capacity and is many endurance athletes favor this drug.
Mildronate, made by a Latvian pharmaceutical firm called Grindeks is used throughout Eastern Europe to treat heart conditions.
These conditions include but are not limited to:
- Chronic heart failure
This is the same drug that the well-known Maria Sharapova tested positive for in 2016, in which she was served a 15-month ban from tennis.
Meldonium has been found to induce anticonvulsant and antihypnotic effects that involve your 2-adrenergic receptors and your nitric oxide-dependent mechanisms. This means that, in acute doses, this could be beneficial for the treatment of seizures and alcohol intoxication.
How do other curlers feel about the result of Alexander Krushelnitsky's drug test? It's mostly mixed. Many curlers think that the sport does not need any type of drugs to enhance performance - it's all about accuracy.
This substance was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2015 and banned in 2016 due to how well it helps the body use energy. This affects your stamina and endurance.
Are There Any Side-Effects to Meldonium?
With little evidence supporting any side effects, it has been attributed to someone developing tachycardia. This condition results in a faster-than-normal heartbeat.
10 Biggest Doping Scandals in Olympic History
1.) Lance Armstrong - 2000
Lance is best-known for his Tour de France titles he won as a cancer survivor from 1999 to 2005. In 2012, these titles were revoked after years of suspicion of doping.
Armstrong was later exposed of an elaborate and multifaceted doping scandal within the U.S. Postal service.
2.) Ben Johnson - 1988
Canadian track star Ben Johnson sprinted to glory in the 100-meter final in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea.
Three days after, Ben tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol.
Setting a record time of 9.79 seconds in the race, Johnson's records were removed after the positive drug test was revealed.
The gold medal was awarded to Carl Lewis. In 1993, Johnson failed another drug test, which turned up an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio.
The International Amateur Athletic Federation later banned Johnson for life.
3.) Luiza Galiulina - 2012
Luiza, the gymnast from Uzbekistan was set to make a second appearance at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
After she tested for furosemide, which is a weight-loss or masking agent. Galiulina denied knowingly taking anything, saying that her mother had given her some heart medication the previous month.
Furosemide treats high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
Did she really know?
In light of being banned, days later her backup drug test tested positive, in which she was given a two-year suspension.
4.) Andreea Raducan - 2000
This Romanian gymnast was disqualified and stripped of her gold medal in the all-around gymnastics competition in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Her drug of choice was pseudoephedrine. Just like Nicklas Backstrom below, she was advised by a team doctor. She was subsequently suspended for the next two Olympic games.
Testing negative in the team gymnastics, and a silver in the vault, she tested negative for those events and she was allowed to keep the medals.
In 2015, Raducan tried to appeal the status of her all-around gymnastics medal that was stripped, but the result was not reinstated.
5.) Nicklas Backstrom - 2014
Swedish hockey star Nicklas Backstrom tested positive for pseudoephedrine in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Olympic officials eventually determined that Backstrom did not intend on gaining a competitive edge by taking this substance. He took this at the advice of his team doctor and had paperwork to prove it.
Backstrom received his medal and only had to deal with a reprimand from WADA. The short-handed Swedish team lost to Canada 3-0, taking a silver.
6.) The Whole Russian Team in 2012, 2014, and 2016
The Russian team has always been dogged on for doping.
These last allegations were made worse by some findings in the New York Times.
WADA goes on to say that "all Russian athletes are considered to be affected by a system subverting and manipulating the anti-doping system."
The International Paralympic Committee banned the entire Russian federation from competing at the Rio Paralympics due to this.
7.) Tyson Gay - 2012
This American sprinter was part of the 4x100-meter relay team in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Next year, Gay failed three separate drug tests, prompting his results to be erased.
Immediately dropping out of the competition, Tyson cooperated with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and served a one-year suspension.
In 2015, the rest of Gay's relay teammates were stripped of their medals.
8.) Marion Jones - 2000
In a 2003 investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, shows that they supplied steroids to many high-profile athletes.
The suspicions that sprinter Marion Jones was on something grew. In 2007, Jones admitted to using a designer drug called "The Clear."
Jones returned the five medals he won in those games and after September 1 of 2000, all of Jones' records were expunged and he was given a 2-year ban.
9.) Ross Rebagliati - 1998
Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati won a gold medal in giant slalom.
Testing positive for marijuana, the Olympic board voted to strip him of the medal.
At the time, cannabis was not on the International Olympic Committee's list of banned substances. It is not generally considered to be a performance-enhancing drug, so it was no surprise when Rebagliati was able to keep his medal.
Rebagliati is now the face of a large marijuana dispensary branding company.
10.) Johann Muhlegg - 2002
Cross-country skier Johann Mulegg competed for Germany in three Olympics prior to representing Spain in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Muhlegg win gold in the 30k, 30k, and the 10k pursuit. After testing positive for darbepoetin, he was disqualified from the 50k race.
While other tests conducted throughout the competitions came up inconclusive, Muhlegg was eventually stripped of all other medals.
Wrapping It Up
Look, doping is a part of elite-level athleticism. There's no way around it.
From curling to Olympic weightlifting, those who are willing to go to extremes to improve their performance will always be around.
Is it fair? No.
You may look at these athletes and shake your head... But remember even without any performance enhancing drugs, they are still some of the best in the world.
Meldonium may be an unlikely choice for someone who curls (but not in the squat rack).
The use of Beta-Blockers is likely to help produce a much larger advantage due to removing nerves from your game.