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Many Athletes Have Taken The Drug That Got Sharapova In Trouble

Photo: Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Maria Sharapova had failed a drug test — and the internet went crazy. But, as new research suggests, meldonium, the drug for which Sharapova tested positive, was frequently taken by athletes — until recently.

For the study, published online this week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers went through three sources of data to see how common the use of meldonium really was among athletes headed to the 2015 Baku European Games. This included the athletes' self-reports, declarations from the National Olympic Committee's medical teams about what drugs they were traveling with, and lab results.

Their results showed that, although meldonium wasn't used by everyone, it was more common than originally thought. In total, 8.7% of the athletes (66 out of 762) tested positive for the drug. However, only 23 athletes reported using the drug. And overall, athletes that had tested positive for meldonium competed in 15 of 21 events at the Games.

Meldonium, also known as mildronate, is meant for reducing ischemia, which is decreased blood flow or oxygen to the heart muscle. There's some evidence that athletes may take it for performance-enhancing reasons, but meldonium has only been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency since the beginning of this year. Sharapova says she's been taking the drug legally for a decade now, and that she knew it only as mildronate.

This study suggests that she might not be the only one.