Dick Pound, a former president of the World of Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), accused Maria Sharapova of negligence for failing her drug test last January at the Australian Open.
“How stupid can you be? What was she thinking of and her advisors? If you’re taking medicine, surely you or someone else arounds you checks if it’s on the list. It’s not that difficult for one of her medical team to look and go 'this is a problem.’"
Sharapova announced earlier last week that she failed a drug test for taking meldonium, brand named as Mildronate. Meldonium was added to the World of Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s list of prohibited substances in September 2015, and the ban took effect in January 2016.
Sharapova said that she takes full responsibility for taking Mildronate and explains that she did not know that this drug was added to WADA’s list.
In 2006, Sharapova’s family doctor prescribed Mildronate to her for “several health issues,” including what sounded like high susceptibility to infections, heart rhythm abnormalities, and familial diabetes. She had been taking the drug legally for 10 years.
I did a little bit of Googling and found that Mildronate was being used exactly what Sharapova specified it was for. The package insert for Mildronate specifies it is used for:
- decreased working efficiency, intellectual and physical overstress (including in athletes)
- combined therapy of ischemic heart disease, chronic cardiac decompensation, and dyshormonal cardiomyopathy
- combined therapy of chronic disturbances of brain blood supply
- diseases of peripheral arteries
There is a low incidence of side effects, which may include indigestion and excitement of heart muscles because of its possible stimulant properties. There have not been any reports of toxic effects.
For my pharmacy friends out there, this video demonstrates the mechanism of action of Mildronate.
In a healthy person, mitochondria in cells are able supply the body with energy by breaking down both glucose and fatty acid to make ATP. Fatty acid processing is a lot slower and requires oxygen. In cases of diabetes, fatty acid byproducts build up in the mitochondria, which slows down its processing. This can cause problems with normal functioning, especially if you are an athlete like Sharapova.
Through partial inhibition of a fatty acid mediator called carnitine, Mildronate alters metabolism by decreasing breakdown of fatty acids and its toxic byproducts and lowers the threshold of oxygen that is required by mitochondria to make energy.
To me, this drug seems pretty legitimate for all the conditions that Sharapova listed. It sounded like she was taking this drug for restoration, not for enhancement. Sure, the FDA has not approved it yet in the US, but that does not mean that it is dangerous. If she is taking this drug for her health, and if the drug is indeed working, then WADA is basically making Sharapova suddenly decide between her health and her career. Switching someone off of a drug or to a new drug can be harmful, especially if that person has been taking it for 10 years.
People make mistakes. Her mistake was missing an e-mail with an updated list of banned medications that coincidentally included a medication that she needed for her health. I don’t think that skipping over *one* email should lose her sponsorships or a chance at competing in the Olympics. I support Sharapova and applaud her professionalism through this situation.
So, Dick Pound, you’re stupid. Maria Sharapova is awesome.
“I know many of you thought that I would be retiring today… but if I was ever going to announce my retirement, it would probably not be in a Downtown Los Angeles with this fairly ugly carpet.” -Maria Sharapova