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I have personal experience regarding WADA prohibited substance abuse. I am using them. Yes, you heard me. I am doping by using performance enhancing medicines. Even the same drugs that got Maria the tennis star banned for more than a year from participating in her beloved sport. Me and Maria are sort of sisters, Meldonium sisters.
I have to say that I am not a professional sports athlete and I haven’t been one. You can say that I came close to this level while I was studying but I did not achieve anything major. I haven’t got the same drive and talent as Sharapova. Now, I am 37 and I routinely compete in US Tennis Association league it does require doping control at least not yet.
I never thought that I will be taking drugs to enhance my performance. To be honest Im to lazy fort that. That is, I am too lazy for going through trouble of getting them and reading how and when to use them. But since I am a publisher of tennis magazine, I am asked About Marias ban routinely. The most common questions include fairness of the decision and did Meldonium really help their performance. My friend was traveling to Riga, Latvia where Mildronate ( brand name of Meldonium) is made and sold, she also knew about this scandalous drug and decided to buy some and bring it home. Thus the situation was ideal to try to research effects for myself.
To be fair, Meldonium is not illegal or not even close to “scheduled” drug in US and nor in any other country as far as I know. It is possible to find original English instructions for using it for heart conditions. But the common conception is that one should take one 250mg capsule in morning and one in evening in day of training. In days when participating in competition, double the dose. If it is used for general energy level increase, 250mg once per day. And this is how I used it and it was great!
Meldonium was developed in Latvia and almost exclusively is manufactured in Latvia. It can be bought in Baltic States , Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The most common assumption is that it was developed to enhance growth in animals there is another possible reason- to help Russian soldiers with high altitude sickness during Afghanistan war. Since at time the Latvia was under Soviet occupation the later could be the real one. Nowadays most commonly it is prescribed to treat variety of conditions like ischemia. Meldonium works by improving oxygen metabolism and that’s why athletes use it as I am.
I had a chance to speak to cardiologist who wanted to remain anonymous. When asked why Meldonium hasn’t been made available In US, he replied that there is lack of doctors experience and confidence about Soviet-era animal studies and also underwhelming commercial potential. I would argue that animal testing here is not the question, since it is proven it self on human use over 40 or so years and now is allowed to sell in some EU countries, which has strict rules on what can be sold in pharmacies. Also the sale statistics of Grindeks ( biggest Meldonium manufacturer ) after Sharapova scandal increased dramatically, thus showing the market potential in rest of the world . Meldonium can be bought online and at the start ( year 2016 it could be bought in Ebay freely and cost of 1 pack was high as 80$).
When Sharapova was banned in year 2016 , her rivals were harsh and were fast to condone her and label as cheat, only Serena commented in polite manner. It could be because Sharapova never was and is not a “locker room favorite,” but the rest of tennis world were not so vicious as her rivals. They said that this substance most likely did not help performance that much. Also some argued that no one thought of researching how long exactly this substance can be detected in body. By the way, this was true, surprisingly WADA did not do that.
Sahrapova made her first appearance in Grand Slam tourment since her ban in US Open in August year 2017, this was the first Grand Slam which agreed to grant her wildcard since she was back from suspension. I spoke with some online vendors and they reported a spike in Meldonium sales in exact day our STAR made her appearance in US Open.
Lets get back to ME, I found myself in tournament where the winner will represent East at the national competition thus it was important for me to win.
I had only 250mg capsule box with 20 capsules in it. I had to develop a strategy for using my precious capsules wisely. First five days I was going to take 500mg per day before my competition. And take double the dose when I would be training extra hard.
I was spreading the “ news” left and right, the “ news” being that I am using Meldonium. Mostly because I wanted to be fair to other competitors and also wanted to be certain that it is allowed in this tournament. The reaction from other players was very peaceful, no one was hateful , only some told that this was a stupid idea.
In the first days of using Meldonium , I did not notice better energy levels or any other effects. But after first few days , I started to notice something, I did not feel soreness and stiffness at all, it was amazing. Normally 2-3 days of tennis is enough to make me sore and look for help with my muscle specialist. Few years ago medical investigation showed that I have problems with slipped discs in my back which made the soreness even worse but Meldonium is some way helped with that! My doctor commented that it could be explained by Meldonium’s ability to make one’s body to use oxygen more effectively. He also speculated that Meldonium was reducing lactic acid levels in my organism thus helping with muscle soreness.After I and my team mates secured spot in national competition I was starting to think where and how I am going to get my next pack of Latvian miracle drug - Meldonium.
To get back to the bigger picture again, I actually did not feel upset when Sharapova was banned.Where is the line between a legal substance and illegal medication, especially which is not particularly tested and researched as this one. This makes me think that there are a lot of athletes using substances which are only currently legal , possibly Actovegin, but that’s story for another day.
Makes me think that some very unlucky athletes get caught and banned just because they are not liked by community or because they are made as examples to scare anyone who thinks of using any supplements. WADA should be forced to actually make real and serious research on supplements that are found around the globe in pharmacies. Also there is possibility that professional leagues cant face the reality, reality being that those who dope will always be ahead those who test.