How U.S. athletes are informed about WADA banned substances list

Track and Field Doping
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Maria Sharapova‘s failure to check the new substances added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list for 2016, and then testing positive for one of those new substances on Jan. 26, left some U.S. Olympians shaking their heads.

“I’ve seen people I know test positive. I’ve seen people I know where it could be intentional drug use, or it could be people who naively didn’t check the list,” said Kristin Armstrong, a two-time Olympic road cycling gold medalist. “It’s unfortunate they have to learn the hard way.”

Every Jan. 1, WADA updates its list of prohibited substances for the calendar year.

WADA announced the 2016 list last September, ample time for athletes to adjust if they were taking substances that would be changed from legal to illegal starting Jan. 1.

U.S. athletes were additionally informed of the updated banned list by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in the fall and by their national governing bodies.

“[USADA and USA Swimming] are constantly sending us lists of updated substances that have either been approved or disapproved,” two-time Olympic swimmer Elizabeth Beisel said. “We are constantly in the know.”

Meldonium, the newly banned heart medication that Sharapova and other Russian and non-Russian Olympic medalists have tested positive for this year, was specifically mentioned in another early January reminder to U.S. athletes from USADA.

“As an example of a 2016 update, it is important to note that there have been new substances or clarifications added to the Prohibited List in various categories, including, but not limited to, meldonium (Mildronate) and insulin-mimetics, including all insulin-receptor agonists,” the January USADA message said.

Of all the athletes announced as testing positive for meldonium this year, none are American.

“Education is a key component of any effective anti-doping program and that includes updating athletes on new inclusions to the prohibited list,” USADA said in a statement. “It’s really important to us that every athlete has the tools and knowledge they need to make smart decisions about their career, their health, and their legacy.”

Meldonium is not FDA approved.

“As soon as you hear that anything’s dropped [onto the prohibited list], your agent, your coach also keeps you in mind with what’s going on,” said Dawn Harper-Nelson, a two-time Olympic 100m hurdles medalist. “When you find out those things, you immediately go to your medicine cabinet. You have to go through the list and even plug it into Google search. Just say what medicines have this in it. And then you make your adjustment from there.”

Athletes across all sports in the USADA registered drug-testing pool must also complete an online tutorial called Athlete’s Advantage before Dec. 31.

“You have to watch, and you have to take a test at the end to say that you watched this and you actually learned,” Harper-Nelson said. “They’ll ask you certain things, like what’s the new drug on the list, when do you have to register by and those types of things. So they try and have a really good regimen.”

Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix is so confident that she takes zero substances that could be added to the banned list that she doesn’t “really pay attention to” alerts and notices with WADA banned list updates.

Athletes can apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to take meldonium for required medical reasons without it being a doping violation. USADA declined to say if any U.S. athlete has done so, and if so, if it had been granted.

U.S. Olympians and Olympic hopefuls in badminton, cycling, shooting, swimming and track and field said this week they hadn’t heard of meldonium before Sharapova’s admission Monday.

“Sounds like it’s on the periodic table, though,” Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño said.

Four-time U.S. Olympic diver Troy Dumais said he had heard of meldonium before this week, as he has studied medicine when not training.

“I don’t know enough about it, but I’ve heard about it,” he said.

MORE: What is meldonium?

Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden

Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

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Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth


Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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