Sir Bradley Wiggins says he 'feels sorry' for tennis player Maria Sharapova after her positive test for meldonium, but that she's ultimately responsible

Bradley Wiggins says that tennis player Maria Sharapova has ‘no excuse’ for her positive anti-doping test, saying that every athlete is responsible for what they put into their body.

Russian Sharapova, 28, revealed on Monday that she had tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open tennis tournament in January.

Sharapova insisted that she had been taking the substance since 2006 for a long-term medical condition and hadn’t realised that the status of the drug had been changed by the World Anti-Doping Agency on January 1 to make it prohibited.

Speaking to Sky News, Wiggins gave his opinion on the news of Sharapova’s positive.

“I do have sympathy for her situation. I feel sorry for her,” said Wiggins. “But at the same time, there is no excuse for it because at the end of the day you’re responsible for everything you put in your body. You’re also responsible for checking there may be changes [to anti-doping rules] on the first of January.

“The British Cycling team are really on the ball – Richard Freeman, the doctor – in terms of things that have been changed, saying ‘please don’t use this anymore’. There’s no excuse for it in this day and age with the things that have gone on before.”

“It isn’t an excuse anymore to say ‘I didn’t realise they’d changed the rules’.”

>>> Wiggins and Sky react to Armstrong doping case

The exact terms of Sharapova’s punishment, including a suspension from competition, have yet to be announced.

While high-profile doping cases are still few and far between in professional tennis, cycling has been dogged by repeated drug scandals over the past few decades. Cycling is widely accepted to be at the forefront of the fight against doping in sport, having brought in the biological passport system and stiffer penalties for doping offences.

Wiggins has always been a staunch advocate of anti-doping, and has frequently spoken out against those who dope. He famously said that Lance Armstrong deserves “everything he gets” after the American admitted to doping throughout his career.

Wiggins himself faced extensive questions over his own performance after winning the 2012 Tour de France – proof of how doping scandals can taint an entire sport and its athletes.

Wiggins added another world title to he impressive palmares on Sunday, winning the Madison with team-mate Mark Cavendish at the 2016 UCI Track World Championships in London.

  • Chris Hayworth

    Some thing really concerns me about what you are saying here Sola Scientia. Why do you appear to be advocating that Performance Enhancing Drugs is OK? Do you not realise that doping is the very reason cycling has such a bad reputation? Now it’s going on through out sports as we all know but with attitudes like this no one will take the efforts to end it seriously.

  • Bob

    whilst I appreciate the info & you have obviously spent time to provide it, its just a moral issue before Jan and I would broadly agree that its wrong. many on here refer to caffeine, but if it was banned tomorrow would it mean everyone was cheating before then, or is it because its widely used somehow more acceptable – its a difficult issue. look at the US with blood doping in 1984? that wasn’t illegal when they used it to win Olympic medals in 1984 but now is looked back on with horror (I hope) and considered cheating. GL

  • Nomad

    We might be both missing the bigger picture…which I’ll get to later. In reference to your post that states Meldonium “Improves athletic training & competitive performance.” Where’s the original publication(s)? Is there a study involving athletes? If so, a RCT? Observational cohort? (Is Meldonium considered high-octane or low-octane doping?). Anything?…or is this just an “opinion” based on the therapeutic effects with CV patients?

    Again, look at EPO. It reared it’s ugly head in pro cycling around 1987/88 or so, and came into full swing in 1990. It was banned by the IOC in 1990 and by the UCI in 1991. The first peer-reviewed published study on the performance enhancing effects of EPO was conducted in 1991 (“Effect of erythropoietin administration on mammal aerobic power.”/Ekblom & Berglund). The results of this study with trained cyclists showed a ~11.7% increase in hct and a ~8% boost in VO2max…considered scientifically significant. The UCI wasted no time in banning EPO due to it’s performance enhancing characteristics, and also safety issues related to EPO-induced high hct…even though there wouldn’t be a test developed until 2000.

    Now with Meldonium: If the drug’s primary purpose is performance enhancing, why did WADA wait ~10 years to ban it? WADA should have a lot of data on it since it was part of their “monitoring” program for so long. And if it’s possibly a safety issue with healthy athletes, why wasn’t it also banned much sooner?

    In terms of athletes using Meldonium (absent any studies showing a specific benefit with athletes) and having successful results, you’re assuming that Meldonium is the ~only~ PED they’re using. We simply don’t know that without additional positives, admissions or other evidence. Some athletes are known to use a “cocktail” of PEDs these days, and it’s almost impossible to attribute one single PED to their superstar performances.

    Interestingly, I heard a theory that this could be a targeting effort by WADA. A 2015 study of data from the monitoring program showed that 724 out of 4316 Russian athletes had evidence of Meldonium in their system (about 1 in 6). With the colossal Russian doping scandal that was exposed, this…as the theory goes, was a move to ban Meldonium and thus start targeting suspecting users (noticed how most of the positives, so far, are Russian athletes). Interesting theory nonetheless.

    As for Sharapova, I’ll leave you with this: Why would a multi-million dollar star athlete walk right into a drug test still glowing with Meldonium?

  • Stevo

    What have Sky got to do with British Cycling’s doctor? And what has that got to do with their being “clean” or not?

  • nevenera

    My reply below to bob also addresses some of it,. The reason I am saying that you are splitting hairs, is that lack of research into the performance enhancing abilities of the drug in athletes does not mean that the drug does not have performance enhancing effects and that all the research that has been done does indicate that this is a very real possibility.

    What is more important to me is if Sharapova and/or someone on her team believed the drug had performance enhancing effects and took it anyway. Based on the information I posted below in reply to Bob, I find it impossible to believe that someone on her team did not know that Mildronate could be taken as a performance enhancing drug.

    I am sure that studies will now be done to look at the effects of Mildronate. It will also be possible to compare successful athletes taking the drug with unsuccessful ones taking the drug.

    For example:

    Other athletes to test positive include: Semion Elistratov of Russia, an Olympic gold medalist in short-track speedskating; Pavel Kulizhnikov of Russia, a world champion speedskater; Davit Modzmanashvili of Georgia, an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling; and Abeba Aregawi of Sweden, a world champion runner.

    Now if we were to look at the competitions where a number of athletes were taking the drug and find that most of the people taking it were not successful, and that most medalists were not taking it, then one could argue that taking the drug did not affect performance.

    However, if you were to find that on average, those taking the drug did better than those who did not, then you could have a reasonable argument for it.

    So yes I think at the moment you are splitting hairs, and missing the bigger picture.

  • nevenera

    From the other

    Mildronate® is the leading agent of the cardiovascular group, antiischemic agent of a metabolic action:

    Acts as antiischemic cell protector in patients with angina pectoris, chronic heart failure, brain circulation disorders.

    Improves physical capacity and mental function in the case of ischemia and in healhty people.

    Due to its unique mechanism of action Mildronate®, depending on the prescribed dose, is widely used for the treatment of different heart and vascular diseases, as well as for the improvement of work capacity of healthy people at physical and mental overloads and during rehabilitation period.

    In February 2010 «Grindeks» successfully finished the clinical trial on the influence of the brand product Mildronate® on the treatment of angina. Publication in “Seminars in Cardiovascular Medicine, 2010; 16:3” on results of clinical trial “Mildronate improves the exercise tolerance in patients with stable angina: results of a long term clinical trial”.

    250 mg capsules N60

    500 mg capsules N60

    Injection 10% 5 ml N10

  • nevenera

    From one of the websites

    Mildronate (aka Mildronat, Mildonium) is a nootropic, vasodilator and CNS stimulant that can unlock your intellectual and physical potential. Mildronate is a structural analogue of gamma-butyrobetaine, a substance contained in every cell of the human body. Mildronate restores the balance between oxygen supply and demand in cells, and removes toxic metabolic products accumulated in cells protecting them from damage. It also possesses an invigorating stimulant effect. Oxygen delivery and utilization by both muscle & brain cells is enhanced. Mildronate is one of Latvia’s most exported products.

    Improves Mental Processes (Memory, Learning, Focus, Concentration, Processing of Information)

    Reduces Fatigue, Increases Motivation & Alertness

    Improves Athletic Training & Competitive Performance

    Improves Microcirculation & Oxygen Delivery

    Suggested Use:

    As a general nootoropic take one 500mg tablet each morning. May increase to one 500mg tablet twice daily if desired and well tolerated.

    For improved athletic performance take 1 to 2 – 500mg tablets twice daily.

    Do not take within 8 hours of planned bedtime.

    Maximum daily dose is 2000mg (4 tablets)

  • nevenera

    In Kentucky it is legal to drive drunk. If you come from a state where it is illegal and you know the consequences yet you drive drunk in Kentucky because you know it is legal and you kill someone. True, you not legally liable (at least on the drunk driving charge) as it is legal to drive drunk in KY, but that does not make what you did any less wrong and the fact that you knew makes it even worse. That would be distinguished from an immigrant who comes from a country where drinking and driving is not illegal, and who moves to KY and drives drunk. As it can be reasonably assumed that the person did not know, and has never lived under the rules of drunk driving.

    I just went to two websites for the sale of the drug she was on, on both it clearly says that the drug can be used to increase exercise performance. In one of them it specifically says for athletes.

    awakebrain dot com /mildronate dot html and on the grindex website on the listing for Mildronate

    I guess one can decide which is more important the spirit of the law or the letter of the law. For a time it was illegal for blacks to marry whites, so for a time it was OK to put people in Jail because they married outside their race. One can say that the people who did marry outside their race were wrong to do so because at the time it was illegal, and only when it became legal was it OK for these people to marry. Or one can say that it was always OK for those people to get married, but the legal system took a while to catch up with that due to the racism prevalent at the time those laws went into effect. I tend to think the latter is the case.

    So for me it is less important when the ban went into effect as it is why Sharapova was taking the drug. If she and her team really did not know it might be a performance enhancing drug, then I agree the penalty should be light. However if she did know and was simply exploiting a loophole because the regulations had not caught up with her yet than as far as I am concerned, she was cheating for 10 years.

    Another example, if you design performance enhancing drug specifically for that reason and athletes are taking it for that reason, but it takes time for WADA to figure it out, that does not absolve company that made it, the people who gave it to the athletes nor the athletes who were taking it, as long as they knew what it did and why they were taking it. As far as I am concerned, they were cheating even before WADA finally figures out the drug exists and bans it.

  • Bob

    no she hasn’t !! – she’s been cheating since January. if it wasn’t on the list before then legally she’s done nothing wrong – morally may be another issue, but that’s not what matters here. if you drive down a road at 40mph for 10 years, then when they change it to a 30 zone you wouldn’t expect to be charged with breaking a law that didn’t exist at the time. personally as a top athlete I think she should have known better and has no excuse, so will now be punished accordingly.

  • boycollins

    “The British Cycling team are really on the ball – Richard Freeman, the doctor – in terms of things that have been changed, saying ‘please don’t use this anymore’.

    ie by implication they were using it previously. I thought Sky were completely clean? How foolish I am.

  • Nomad

    I’m not “splitting hairs” but evaluating the evidence of it’s ergogenic effects with athletes…which none seems to exist in the scientific literature. With only a rodent study that measured exercise performance, the evidence, IMO, is tenuous at best. I looked at those 15+ studies and they’re involving subjects with cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart failure, myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, diabetes).

    The study on heat stress was also involving patients with CV disease in which Meldonium improved their quality of life in summer time heat conditions. Meldonium is clearly a cardioprotective drug for some people with CV disease. And if some athletes have CV disease I’m sure the drug would be medically indicated for that group. And the Soviet soldiers’ use of Meldonium for endurance appears to be an observational postulation. There was no control group, no confounding factors adjusted for, etc. The soldiers could have also been using amphetamines, caffeine or even Vodka…who knows when you don’t have a placebo-control group. That’s why RCTs are the gold standard in research.

    Also, the British Journal of Sports Medicine Blog recently did an article on this topic with a review of Meldonium: “Meldonium use by athletes at the Baku 2015 European games.” (Stuart, Schneider, Steinbach/BJSM/030816). They commented on it’s potential to enhance performance:

    “The evidence to demonstrate any performance enhancing effects of meldonium in the athlete population is limited. There appears to be some evidence that meldonium may benefit exercise performance in rodents, but specific studies to evaluate potential effect on performance specifically in elite athletes have not been identified. The following studies provide some further understanding of the actions of the drug which could be linked to effects on performance.”

    Just because WADA bans a drug doesn’t necessarily mean it’s performance enhancing. A good example is “DHEA” in which several high profile athletes have tested positive for including Tyler Hamiltion. However, there is absolutely no studies that demonstrate a performance enhancing effect with athletes. In fact, the only papers that show any beneficial effect for ~anyone~ are studies involving older folks; improved mental wellbeing and a RCT showing reversal/improvement of arterial stiffness in a 65+ age demographic.

    I think the paper that sola scientia posted on the placebo-induced performance in sports makes a lot of sense on some of these drugs/substances that have no scientific backing on performance enhancing.

  • nevenera

    I found at least 15 papers with references to to increased endurance and improved ability to withstand temperature stressed that is attributed to the drugs in humans and several more in animals. It was also used by the soviet soldiers to increase endurance. Applying results from the general population to athletes is not bad science if done properly. The drug will have the same physiological effects in at athletes as it does on anyone else taking the drugs. Personally with all that I have read I am satisfied that it is a PED, could Sharapova have done as well as she did without it? We will now never know.
    I also doubt that If Serena was taking the stuff anyone would be splitting hairs like you are here. Even though she actually has more of a medical reason to take the stuff. My guess is that confirmation bias might be an issue here it does not matter what you find you will not think it is valid. It is interesting that during s recent meet a high number of participants were taking the drug the percent of medalists using was higher than the overall number taking it. Anyhow let’s see how it all shakes out.

  • Nomad

    That’s the paper I’m working off of. The authors are referencing the Dizintare paper (ref #15 at the bottom). If you search that paper and author you won’t find it indexed in a reputable journal in either PubMed or Google Scholar (at least I can’t).

    If a researcher is going to make a claim that a drug enhances performance for athletes they usually have studies that are peer-reviewed & published in reputable journals. The studies would articulate the type and number of athletes, amount of drug, controls, variables adjusted for, results in performance, conclusions, etc. For example, search: “Effect of RhEPO on administration on serum levels of sTfR and cycling performance” (Birkeland et al/Med Sci Sports Exerc/2000) and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    Again, I don’t know if the researchers are referencing therapeutic medical studies and applying those results to athletes (which would be bad science), or if they’re assuming that because Meldonium is used by a fair amount of athletes, it must be performance enhancing (again…poor science and simply an opinion). It’s also possible the paper may have been retracted or never made the criteria to published in a reputable journal to begin with.

    I’ll keep searching anyway…thanks for your response.

  • nevenera

    And this which is a peer reviewed article as I said above that was just to start.

    Mildronate (Meldonium) in professional sports – monitoring doping control urine samples using hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography – high resolution/high accuracy mass spectrometry.

    In this peer reviewed article they specifically say that this drug enhances performance among athletes in addition to increased healing and resistance to stress.

  • nevenera

    When somebody insults others for disagreeing it is a sign of the person not having facts in their side.

  • Nomad

    Google Scholar is also a good resource for peer-reviewed studies that are published in reputable journals.

    On this Meldonium issue, are you finding any peer-reviewed studies with athletes? The reference you provided seems to be an opinion paper. The only info I’m finding indexed in PubMed (aside from therapeutic medical use) is a study on Meldonium and how to drug test for it: “Mildronate (Meldonium) in professional sports – monitoring doping control urine samples.” (Gorgens et al/Drug Test Anal/2015). The paper makes ref to a none-indexed opinion paper on it’s potential performance enhancing effect with athletes (New Idea Sport/M. Dzintare).

    For example, there are several published peer-reviewed double blind studies with EPO & highly trained cyclists/distance runners showing a significant performance boost in VO2max, LT, time to exhaustion, etc. Same for caffeine and endurance athletes; many RCTs showing a performance enhancing benefit. This is what I’m looking for with Meldonium. Conversely, there are many medical studies showing Meldonium’s therapeutic effect with CV patients…but these subjects are not healthy highly-trained athletes.

    “sola scientia” might have a point on the lack of evidence with athletes. Indeed, there has been several athletes testing positive for it since Jan, including a pro-cyclist (Vorganov) and a very high profile World Champion distance runner (Aregawi). I’m wondering, though, if these athletes were using it in conjunction with blood doping and/or EPO (microdosing), and any performance enhancing benefit they were getting would be from the other PEDs and not the Meldonium.

    Just a thought on this subject…and athletes these days seem willing to take most anything if they “think” (or are told) it will be performance enhancing.

  • nevenera

    You can start here google the following article written before the drug was made illegal. “Performance-Enhancing Drugs Used by Elite Athletes That Are Surprisingly Legal”

  • nevenera

    Do a pubmed search for the drug and you will get the research articles, do a simple google search to find other sources. I am satisfied with the information I found you can do the same it will take all of 15 mins

  • sola scientia

    Alright then, exactly where is this “evidence”?

  • Christopher Richards

    You’re right man, except for that last part. ANYONE who gets caught becomes a scapegoat.

  • Jonathan Alford

    they are all on the gear at the top, its impossible to compete otherwise, that the business of elite sport, a lot of questions being asked of ITF anti doping policies as they are not interested in catching the dopers, they had to give a name to take the heat off, Sharapova is the scapegoat

  • Oscar D. Mendoza

    One thing is the moral, and another the legal. Acorder to WADA, the substance it was added this year and tot 2+2, She cheated her body in January. Do you know what´s rule of law? and the presumption of innocence? This concepts will feel unintelligible for you.

  • JohnJGuy

    Mz Sharapova is going to find it increasingly difficult to continue and certainly hard to retire with a reputation intact…

    …She has lost her integrity and professional reputation. Every championship win is now questionable!

  • nevenera

    The drug has been known to be a PED for years now. If that was the reason she was using it, then she has been cheating for years. If it has allowed her to win then that makes it worse. I would be pissed if I was one of her opponents. Even if she did not know enough was know about it that her handlers should have taken her off it years ago. Can u get it? Frankly I believe Sharapova is too smart for this to have been an accident.

  • elan

    If you take a substance that enhances performance then you should be penalised.Allan Baxter was stripped of a medal years ago for taking an inhaler.Ask the players she has put out of tournaments.If she had not been caught then I doubt if she would have said.It does not matter if its just on a banned list,cyclists have had to put up with less.Give her a sanction then come back,thats the rules.Unless your Lance of course,then they make uptheir own rules

  • Oscar D. Mendoza

    It’s easy talk and judge. That’s no help so much. Tell me something new Bradley. The athlete who does not take”something” cast the first stone. One thing is what is banned and another, what is detected.

  • Oscar D. Mendoza

    Yes, but the sustance is banned from 1th january 2016. Can u get it?

  • alex

    whats your excuse for winning the tour as a track champion?

  • nevenera

    but she has been cheating for 10 years…

  • nevenera

    There is evidence it enhances performance, learning, healing and increases the ability to handle stress, it is mentioned by WADA and by a number of articles written well before the drug was made famous worldwide by Ms. Sharapova.

    It is a PED.

  • lee

    IMO it’d be a more telling situ. if she had to continue at the same level…

  • Samuel Clemens

    Chaps, pay attention: at the top level of almost any sport, drugs are de rigeur. Ain’t no pane a agua there.

  • sola scientia

    “They”? “Can”?

    I checked again, and as I type, the only WADA statement popping on my searches is this:

    Meldonium was added [to the Prohibited List] because of evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance.’

    Suppose you take a placebo with intent, are you in violation of The Rules? No? Yes?

    Hilarity. A few moments at Google produces this:

    As far as I’ve been able to determine, meldonium has not been statistically separated from a placebo re: performance enhancement. It might help some cardio-vascular impaired individuals exercise themselves out of the deep, life-threatening, hole they are in, but whether it has any actual effect on healthy people — let alone an elite athlete — remains unclear.

  • J1

    They have come out and said it can enhance performance actually.

  • David Kerry

    She’s a drugs cheat!! Ps what’s with the big words .. She’s a drugs cheat !! Get over it

  • Jordan

    Caffeine was on the banned list above certain dosages for a long time as it is a proven performance enhancer.

  • Lee Wingate

    Actually WADA do have evidence that its a performance enhancer, hence the reason its now on the banned list but only since Jan ’16, so she has done nothing wrong up to that point. before then, technically she’s been operating “within the rules”…. although you have to question why she would take quite a serious medicine originally designed to treat angina and other heart / cardio related illnesses!?

  • sola scientia

    Perhaps your model of the life of a sports super-star is not congruent to reality?

  • David Kerry

    This women should be banned for life.. How on earth is it possible to compete at the very top level of tennis surrounded by the best doctors trainers and sports personnel in the world and the say oh I didn’t realise I was taking a banned substance !!!! Like Bradley Wiggins said there is absolutely no excuse

  • sola scientia

    If there was evidence melodnium enhances performance, WADA would have mentioned it when they banned it.

    Instead, the crime is the “intent” to take something that enhances performance.

    What’s next? Sugar? Beet juice? Caffeine?

  • racyrich

    ‘All her winnings?’ Why? She’s only been breaking the rules since January

  • Andrew Bairsto

    Lets hope they take all her winnings her retention money and titles from her .

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    They always have their excuse ready. Isn’t it amazing how many athletes have permanent medical conditions that require medications that by amazing coincidence happen to be performance enhancing.