As of January 1 2016, WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) included Meldonium in its list of banned drugs (anti doping drugs).
But what is Doping? I have defined Doping as “an intentional intake of a drug for a prolonged period of time, without any medical reasons or protective reasons, which is designed to improve the Athlete’s performance in any given sports to a significant degree as compared to Athletes not taking the same drug in the same sport”.
Thus, according to my definition, lot of drugs will qualify as doping drugs and most are listed on the WADA list of banned drugs. This list is most important, not only in its creation and inclusion but also enforcement and purposes to keep sports clean and offer spectators natural contest between natural gifts given by holy Bel Marduk Adonai (God).
In line with my definition of doping and need for WADA, I wrote my previous article on the use of testosterone in Lawn Tennis. Same Testosterone is used in other sports as well in same countries. But the testosterone being used by players, though banned by WADA, has no physical existing means of getting caught. Hence, all players currently using Testosterone are not caught by WADA. They can as of now be caught only by the 18 point programme I have given in the article.
This mention becomes important because all athletes, who are presently abusing testosterone are either based in western Europe or USA. None has been caught, no body has been punished and presently there are no technological means to catch them.
Now, coming to Meldonium. It is primarily used by athletes of Eastern Europe and Russia and until 1st January 2016 was not on the list of banned drugs of WADA.
So, is banning Meldonium, a western conspiracy to deprive eastern european athletes of a competitive edge as compared to their testosterone driven athletes? Its a possibility which cannot be ruled out and with 2016 Olympics fast approaching, seems a likely scenario. The Meldonium ban will not only deprive east european athletes of psychological competitive edge but some athletes with medal prospects might be banned from actually participating.
As long as WADA fails to catch testosterone driven athletes, discrimination cannot be ruled out.
But, the mystery of Meldonium does not end with WADA listing.
Lets look into Meldonium with a bit more details to derive our own conclusions as sports lovers.
Actually Meldonium was developed in Latvia at the Institute of organic synthesis by Professor Ivars Calvinia. Initially the purpose was to stimulate growth in animals and poultry and control growth in plants. It was successful in both.
But, later research in Meldonium found that it had therapeutic benefits in ischaemic diseases of both heart and brain.
Meldonium inhibits the beta oxidation of fatty acids and stimulates the utilisation of glucose in an ischaemic heart. It has similar effect in the brain and is said to improve the mood, activity and vigour of the person.
Now, if we see an athlete in strenuous training or even in actual play, parts of the heart go into “relative ischaemia” and in such cases Meldonium has same beneficial effect as in Ischaemic Heart Disease (IHD) patient. But, such “relative ischaemia” is obtained after very strenuous exercise or actual play. In a normal sedentary person, Meldonium has no benefit at all. Its potential side effects include irregular heart beat, changes in blood pressures, allergic reactions etc.
Thus Meldonium is of benefit only in IHD or in “Relative Ischaemia” and should not be taken by normal persons.
Since we have established the above, the contention of the inventor of Meldonium that banning Meldonium will put the lives of more athletes at risk, looks to be true and there is strong possibility that WADA has made a mistake.
Meldonium only prevents ischaemia and increases endurance and stamina at the point of “Relative Ischaemia” and not before that. Thus, there is no conclusive proof that Meldonium is actually improving the performance of the athlete.
At best argument in favour of WADA listing can be made in cases of Marathon and long distance runners where “Relative Ischaemia” is a guarantee and some athletes can have some benefits. Here also Meldonium will prevent sudden cardiac deaths of athletes.
Thus, in favour of athlete’s health, I will argue that WADA remove Meldonium from banned drugs, at least till such time that they can prove conclusively that Meldonium is a ONLY performance enhancing drug and does not save lives.
I also think that WADA needs to be funded more robustly so that it can develop or acquire technology to catch all cheating, including lots of it which it is presently not able to catch. Caching all is very important.
And here the curious case of Meldonium acquires its significance.