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Track & Field Athlete, Lehonkova, Accepts Finding of No Fault for Meldonium Anti-Doping Rule Violation

Nataliya Lehonkova doping sanctionUSADA announced today that Nataliya Lehonkova, of Ukraine, an athlete in the sport of track & field, has tested positive for a prohibited substance, which was determined to have been ingested by her without fault or negligence.

Lehonkova, 33, tested positive for meldonium as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample she provided on February 12, 2016. Meldonium is a non-specified substance that was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) Prohibited List in 2016. It is in the category of Hormone and Metabolic Modulators and is now prohibited at all times under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) National Anti-Doping Policies (“USOC NADP”), and the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) Anti-Doping Rules, all of which have adopted the WADA Code (the “Code”) and the WADA Prohibited List.

USADA discovered through our investigation that Lehonkova first used meldonium in August 2015 to help her recover from training she was doing in preparation for a competition. It was also confirmed that in November 2015 she used a medication known as Cardionat, which contained meldonium and was being used by her mother.  Lehonkova demonstrated that this second use of a product containing meldonium, although not under the care of a physician, was undertaken because she was experiencing heart pain after strenuous competitions. We concluded that there was no use of any products containing meldonium after November 2015.

After a thorough review of the case, USADA concluded that the extremely low meldonium concentration in the athlete’s urine sample, combined with the athlete’s explanation of use, was consistent with ingestion prior to the substance being officially prohibited on January 1, 2016. Based on the latest guidance offered by WADA on June 30, 2016, for cases involving meldonium, Lehonkova will not face a period of ineligibility or loss of results obtained on or subsequent to February 12, 2016, the day her sample was collected.

“The finding was made that Lehonkova’s use of meldonium came prior to its inclusion on the WADA Prohibited List,” said USADA CEO, Travis T. Tygart. “This, and other cases like it, serve as a reminder to all athletes that they must be diligent in knowing exactly what they are using.”

In an effort to aid athletes, as well as all support team members such as parents and coaches, in understanding the rules applicable to them, USADA provides comprehensive instruction on its website on the testing process and prohibited substances, how to obtain permission to use a necessary medication, and the risks and dangers of taking supplements as well as performance-enhancing and recreational drugs. In addition, the agency manages a drug reference hotline, Drug Reference Online (www.GlobalDRO.com), conducts educational sessions with National Governing Bodies and their athletes, and proactively distributes a multitude of educational materials, such as the Prohibited List, easy-reference wallet cards, periodic newsletters, and protocol and policy reference documentation.

USADA is responsible for the testing and results management process for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement, and is equally dedicated to preserving the integrity of sport through research initiatives and educational programs.

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