Meldonium
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Russia boasts of better replacements for banned meldonium

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MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian state medical agency says it has found new and improved alternatives to meldonium, the banned substance for which tennis star Maria Sharapova tested positive.

Federal Medical-Biological Agency head Vladimir Uiba says Russia has found “several drugs which are not banned and work significantly better than meldonium,” in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

Uiba didn’t name the new drugs and it wasn’t immediately clear whether they are already being used by top Russian athletes. Uiba’s agency is tasked with providing medical support to Russian national teams in many sports.

Sharapova was among over 100 athletes who tested positive after the heart drug meldonium was banned in sport last year.

Most of those were cleared because of evidence they had stopped taking meldonium before it was banned, though Sharapova was suspended because she had taken it after the cutoff date.

Numerous claims have been made over recent decades about meldonium, which is marketed for sufferers from heart and circulatory conditions, including that it can increase physical and mental endurance.

However, Russian officials have said it is not performance-enhancing in a sports context, and argued it prevents heart attacks under extreme stress.

Sharapova said last year she used meldonium for 10 years for reasons including a magnesium deficiency, irregular heart test results and a family history of diabetes.

Sharapova will return to the WTA Tour at a competition in Stuttgart on Apr. 26, the day her 15-month ban ends.

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Maria Sharapova not fully committed to 2020 Olympic run

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The rumors and reports have been out for months, but asked directly, Maria Sharapova wasn’t immediately quite sure how to answer when asked about going for the 2020 Olympics.

“Ooh, I don’t, umm,” Sharapova said, laughing lightly, sitting across from retired U.S. Olympic soccer champion Julia Foudy at a conference in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Tuesday (video here). “It’s a question I’ve been asked, and I’d love to sit here today and say yes, in three-so years that is where I want to be. But it’s hard. It’s hard to look that far, also being a woman that’s also [turning] 30 years [old in three weeks]. I want to have a family. I want to be a mother. Those are definitely long-term goals of mine. But of course to compete in another Olympics, that’s an athlete’s dream. I’d love to be a part of that.”

Sharapova is set to return from her 15-month meldonium ban next month. What stings the most about her suspension?

“Something was taken away from you that you’ve done so passionately since you were a little girl,” she said. “Although I’m at a stage and an age in my career and in my life where you’re closer to the end than you are to the beginning, you always want to end your career or a chapter in your life on your terms and in your voice. And to be in a moment where you feel or you felt like it could have ended on someone else’s voice and someone else’s terms was very difficult to accept. That’s why I fought so hard for the truth to be out. You don’t realize how much you love something and how much something it means to you until you lose it for some time. It gave me a chance also to live.”

Sharapova joked about going to Coachella last year.

“There’s 120,000 people doing drugs that I’m not aware of?” she said, laughing. “And completely being out of my element. I was like, OK? … I’m skipping Coachella this year, because I got my day-job back.”

The fans’ reaction when she gets back on the competition courts?

“I don’t know if there’s much that I can control,” she said.

Earlier this month, her agent reportedly said he thought that Sharapova will play through the 2020 Tokyo Games if healthy.

Sharapova will be 33 years old come the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, two years older than any previous Russian Olympic tennis player. She will likely have to be ranked among the top four Russians in the world in spring 2020 to qualify for the Games outright.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said Tuesday. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility.

One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

Two women’s players, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, have achieved the singles career Golden Slam — winning all four majors and the Olympics. Sharapova, beaten by Williams 6-0, 6-1 in the London 2012 final, is a Tokyo title away from joining them.

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MORE: Venus Williams targets 2020 Olympics at age 40

Maria Sharapova to ‘play through Tokyo,’ agent believes

Maria Sharapova
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Maria Sharapova‘s meldonium ban took her away from the WTA Tour for 15 months, but it also should extend her career to one more Olympics in Tokyo, her agent said, according to CNN.

“If [the suspension] didn’t happen, this probably would have been her last year,” said Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud, according to the report. “I think she’ll play through Tokyo [if healthy].”

Sharapova, set to return from her ban next month, received a “third career” due to the forced break that allowed her body to heal from an accumulation of injuries, Eisenbud said, according to CNN.

Sharapova will be 33 years old come the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, two years older than any previous Russian Olympic tennis player. She will likely have to be ranked among the top four Russians in the world in spring 2020 to qualify for the Games outright.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. (Also in February 2016, Eisenbud reportedly said Sharapova would definitely not play in Tokyo)

One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

Two women’s players, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, have achieved the singles career Golden Slam — winning all four majors and the Olympics. Sharapova, beaten by Williams 6-0, 6-1 in the London 2012 final, is a Tokyo title away from joining them.

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MORE: Venus Williams targets 2020 Olympics at age 40

Warrior!! In my new @nikenyc gear thinking of #Tokyo ❤

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