What is Meldonium?
Meldonium, also known as Mildronate, is an anti-ischemic drug used to treat heart conditions which affect blood flow throughout the body, such as heart failure or angina. The medication, which gained notoriety after tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted to using it throughout her career, is not approved for use in the United States, but is commonly used in European countries, including Russia. As a treatment for cardiovascular disease, Meldonium is often used for a period of four to six weeks and works by increasing the size of blood vessels, aiding in the delivery of oxygen-rich blood to major organs and muscle groups.
Is Meldonium Legal?
Meldonium is manufactured in Latvia and primarily distributed throughout the Baltic countries: Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Finland, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, and Sweden. Meldonium is not authorized in the remaining European countries and not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States. As of January 1st, 2016, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Meldonium from use by competition-level athletes, where in 2015 it was on the monitored list.
Is Meldonium a Steroid?
No. Meldonium is categorized as a metabolic modulator, meaning it affects the way the body utilizes energy. Meldonium’s active ingredient is L-carnitine, which is a naturally occurring substance which appears in milk and meats. Steroids are synthesized substances which promote the growth of skeletal muscle and the production of the testosterone in both males and females. Steroid abuse can result in medical difficulties including mood swings, aggression, skin issues, hair loss, as well as liver, heart, and kidney disease.
How Does Meldonium Benefit Athletes?
Meldonium has been found to boost athletic performances due to the its ability to increase the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body. When used by people without heart conditions which would benefit from the use of Meldonium, this enhances one’s stamina and endurance, allowing athletes to run faster, swim longer, and play harder. Previously, due to its limited availability, there was not enough evidence to support the fact that Meldonium was effective in providing these boosts, so the World Anti-Doping Agency listed it as a substance to be monitored to learn more about it’s effects.
However, with increased occurrences of athletes using this heart medication as a performance enhancer, the World Anti-Doping Agency officially banned Meldonium from events such as the Olympics and other international sports competitions. Since the ban was implemented, nearly 50 world-class athletes have been found with Meldonium in their systems, resulting in suspensions and bans. A vast majority of the athletes involved have been Russian athletes, including:
- Maria Sharapova, tennis star who has been provisionally suspended
- Ekaterina Bobrova, a champion figure skater
- Mikhail Pulyaev, a Judo fighter
Side Effects of Meldonium Use
Because it interacts directly with the circulatory system, improper use of Meldonium can be dangerous. Meldonium is typically reserved for use in cases of serious heart complications in which other heart medications have not been effective. Side effects one may experience while using this drug include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Changes in blood pressure
- Changes in one’s skin condition
- Allergic reactions