Entire Russian ice hockey team fail drug tests for meldonium - report

An old sports drug habit is dying hard in Russia, even with their young athletes.

Russia's entire junior ice hockey squad has been replaced and the head coach fired because too many players tested positive for the recently banned meldonium.

Russian sport has been hit hard by WADA's decision to put meldonium on the banned list from January 1, with tennis star Maria Sharapova the highest profile athlete to be caught out.

The under-18 hockey team was set to depart for the world championships in North Dakota next week, but AllHockey reported they will be replaced by Russia's top under-17 players. A government-funded news agency did not mention the drug, but reported that the Russian team "had every right to change" its lineup.

It has just been revealed that four judokas have failed also drug tests, and a curling team is among those to also have their rosters overhauled. The sports website Deadspin suggested that the Russian meldonium crisis was "more of a culture clash".

"It's fairly low-level as far as banned substances go - it's sold over-the-counter in Russian and some Eastern European countries...".

It quotes a New York Times article explaining that Russians are baffled that WADA would consider it cheating.

The Times stated: "Russian teams had used the drug regularly and openly, viewing it as a remedy for fending off exhaustion and heart problems. Most team coaches would keep a supply, administering it along with other standard vitamins.

Meldonium was an obscure drug until Sharapova's high-profile fall from grace. But the drug has long been popular with ice hockey players.

Kirovs Lipmans, owner and chairman of the Latvian drug manufacturer Grindeks, told an interviewer in 2011: "I know that the Russian national ice hockey team don't even come to training camps without mildronate, to say nothing of Latvian national team players.

"I presume that in the coming years it will become a very popular drug among athletes...ice hockey players have long taken mildronate, and now Russians are actively breaking into this."

- NZ Herald

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