The Latvian company that manufactures meldonium says the normal course of treatment for the drug is four to six weeks – not the 10 years that Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova says she used the substance.
The five-time Grand Slam champion said on Monday she failed a doping test at the Australian Open in January for meldonium, which became a banned substance under the World Anti-Doping Agency code this year.
The former No.1 said she had taken meldonium, a heart medicine which improves blood flow and is little-known in the US, for a decade following various health problems including regular sicknesses, early signs of diabetes and “irregular” results from echocardiography exams.
“I was first given the substance back in 2006. I had several health issues going on at the time,” she said. Sharapova didn’t specify whether she had used it constantly since then.
Meldonium was banned because it aids oxygen uptake and endurance, and several athletes in various international sports have already been caught using it since it was banned on January 1.
Latvian company Grindeks, which manufactures meldonium, told The Associated Press that four to six weeks was a common course.
“Depending on the patient’s health condition, treatment course of meldonium preparations may vary from four to six weeks. Treatment course can be repeated twice or thrice a year,” the company said in an emailed statement.
While Grindeks has previously stated that the drug can provide an “improvement of work capacity of healthy people at physical and mental overloads and during rehabilitation period,” the company said Tuesday that it believed the substance would not enhance athletes’ performance in competition and might even do the opposite.
“It would be reasonable to recommend them to use meldonium as a cell protector to avoid heart failure or muscle damage in case of unwanted overload,” the company said.
Grindeks did not comment when asked whether someone with the symptoms Sharapova described would be a suitable patient for meldonium. The company said it was designed for patients with chronic heart and circulation conditions, those recovering from illness or injury and people suffering with “reduced working capacity, physical and psycho-emotional overload.”
Following Sharapova’s drug test failure, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he expected more Russian athletes to test positive for meldonium.