Hundreds of Russian athletes used meldonium before it was banned, say sports minister

Vitaly Mutko confirms that many Russian athletes used meldonium before it was banned, with 40 under investigation

Packaging of Midronate, aka Meldonium (Photo: Mildronats/CC3.0)

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko admits that several hundred Russian athletes were using meldonium before it was banned on January 1, with 40 now under investigation.

Interfax, a Russian news agency, reported on Thursday (April 7) that 30 per cent of sports teams in the country had used the drug, according to Mutko.

The minister has previously stated that all Russian athletes under investigation would receive legal assistance, which includes banned cyclist Eduard Vorganov, formerly of Katusha.

"Our main task now is to stabilize the situation and reduce our losses," Mutko said. "Our second task is to support Russian athletes under investigation now."

>>> Russian Cycling Federation confirms two positive tests for meldonium

Tennis player Maria Sharapova is the most high profile athlete to have tested positive for the drug, saying that she had been prescribed it by her doctors for several years.

Meldoinium is commonly used to treat heart conditions and chest pain, but it is also thought to improve endurance in athletes and was included on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list for 2016.

But on company that makes the drug has recently stated that the drug can stay in a person's system for months after they stop taking it.

WADA confirmed in March that more than 140 athletes worldwide have tested positive for the drug.

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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.