What is Meldonium, the Banned Drug Tennis Star Maria Sharapova Took?

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

Like David Beckham did with metatarsals and Shane Warne did with diet pills, Maria Sharapova has put meldonium on the map. The tennis star has tested positive for the banned substance, and could face a four-year ban from the sport.

But what exactly is meldonium?

In short, it’s a drug that’s used to increase blood flow. Meldonium -- also known as mildronate -- is used to treat a range of cardiac and vascular diseases, such as ischaemia, a lack of blood flow to parts of the body. It’s banned because it can increase endurance, and WADA says it has been used by athletes for this very purpose.

It was only put on the naughty list by WADA on January 1st this year, though Sharapova and fellow athletes were warned about this last September. She's reportedly been taking it since she was 16 years old, apparently because of a range of health issues. She’s now 28.

Read More: The Most Common Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sport

“I was first given the substance back in 2006. I had several health issues going on at the time,” Sharapova said. “I was getting sick very often and I had a deficiency in magnesium and a family history of diabetes, and there were signs of diabetes. That is one of the medications, along with others, that I received.”

Sharapova has been provisionally suspended from tennis, and the ITF will soon reveal the length of her ban. [Independent]

Image: The A Position