Meldonium, the banned drug Maria Sharapova recently admitted to taking, may be used quite widely in the athletic community according to new research.
The research, performed by members of the European Olympic Committees Medical and Anti-Doping Commission and published online Tuesday, examined athletes at the 2015 European Games in Baku, which took place in June, before meldonium was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. They looked at three factors: athletes self-reporting of taking the drug; declarations from medical teams about what drugs they’d taken with them; and results from testing, which found 8.7% had tested positive (though only 3.5% had declared use). Of the medallists or other competition winners, 13 were taking meldonium during the games, as were athletes from 15 of the 21 participating countries.
The drug was banned effective Jan. 1, but Sharapova tested positive for it at the Australian Open later that month. She said she had not read an updated list that included the drug. Meldonium is meant to improve oxygen circulation for patients with heart conditions or vascular disease. Since it also makes users feel more active and improves motor function, it is thought to have performance-enhancing qualities.