The World Anti-Doping Agency is offering hope to dozens of athletes who have tested positive for Meldonium, after the agency admitted it did not know exactly how long it takes for the drug to leave the body.
WADA added Meldonium to the list of banned substances on January 1, 2016, and since then, more than 120 athletes have tested positive for it.
The move by WADA comes as more studies show Meldonium could be detectable in athletes for several months after the initial ingestion.
Based on those studies, WADA issued new guidelines for athletes. It said any athlete that can show a “balance of probabilities” that he or she ingested Meldonium before the ban took effect at the beginning of the year could be cleared of wrongdoing by a hearing panel.
According to WADA, “In the case of Meldonium, there is currently a lack of clear scientific information of excretion times.”
“In these circumstances, WADA considers that there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete,” the group said.
Tennis star Maria Sharapova speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles on Monday, March 7, 2016. Sharapova says she has failed a drug test at the Australian Open.
The highest profile case of Meldonium use involves Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, who announced that she tested positive during the Australian Open in January.
In Sharapova’s case, though, it is unlikely she will avoid punishment, since she admitted she did not know Meldonium had become a banned substance. She is currently serving a provisional suspension for the failed January drug test.
Meldonium is a drug used to treat low blood flow to parts of the body, specifically for ailments like angina and heart failure. Athletes take the drug because the increased blood flow they receive helps improve their capacity to exercise.
Meldonium is manufactured in Latvia, under the name Mildronate, and is only distributed it the Baltic countries and Russia. It has not been approved for use in the rest of Europe or the United States.