Yulia Efimova
AP

Yuliya Efimova: I failed test for meldonium in February but stopped taking it before Jan. 1

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MOSCOW (AP) — Despite failing a doping test for meldonium, World champion Yuliya Efimova said Monday she still hopes to swim at the Olympics in August.

In an emotional recorded statement on Russian state TV, Efimova said she tested positive for the recently banned endurance-boosting drug last month and insisted she was innocent.

“I categorically reject the accusation of doping,” she said. “At the current time, we are preparing for a hearing into my case. We intend to have the charge completely dismissed and to prove that I didn’t break anti-doping rules, and I continue to train with the hope that I will compete at the Olympic Games in Rio.”

A four-time gold medalist at the World Championships, the breaststroke specialist is widely considered to be Russia’s top medal hope in swimming at the Olympics.

Efimova, who won bronze in the 200m breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics, could be banned for life if found guilty of a second career doping offense.

She was stripped of five European Championships medals after testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. Efimova’s ban on that occasion was reduced from two years to 16 months after she argued that she had taken the substance by accident while trying to buy a legal supplement.

“I missed one and a half years due to my own stupidity,” Efimova said. “Since then I track especially carefully anything that enters my body and I give a guarantee that any medicines that I have taken or am taking are allowed.”

Efimova said she had taken meldonium for unspecified medical reasons, but stopped before Jan. 1, when the substance became banned in sports.

“Although the half-life of meldonium in organism is only 4-6 hours, its complete elimination time from organism is significantly longer,” the drug’s Latvian manufacturer, Grindeks, said in an e-mailed statement. “Its terminal elimination from the body may last for several months and it depends on a variety of factors.”

Her agent, Andrei Mitkov, refused to provide any more detail about Efimova’s medical circumstances in televised comments, saying he did not want to give away information before a hearing.

Mitkov said Efimova tested positive in two out-of-competition tests last month while training in Los Angeles. One was administered by swimming governing body FINA and the other by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Mitkov said.

Also Monday, Russia’s embattled track and field federation said four of its athletes had tested positive for meldonium at last month’s national indoor championships.

The cases pile more pressure on Russia, which was suspended from global track and field in November after a World Anti-Doping Agency commission report alleged systematic, state-sponsored doping. Russia could miss out on the Olympics if the ban is not lifted in time.

Two Russian runners have admitted to failing doping tests at last month’s championships. They are Andrei Minzhulin, who won the 5000 meters at the event, and Nadezhda Kotlyarova, who reached the semifinals in the 400m at last year’s World Championships.

Minzhulin told Russia’s R-Sport agency that he stopped taking meldonium in November but it remained in his system.

The federation did not identify those who had tested positive but said it was “carefully investigating” the cases and that athletes had been warned several times about meldonium after WADA said in September that it would be banned for 2016.

The IAAF did not respond to a request for comment.

Besides the Russians, there are also ongoing meldonium cases involving former World 1500 champion Abeba Aregawi of Sweden and former European Indoor 800m champion Nataliya Lupu of Ukraine.

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Alistair Brownlee, after Ironman, leans toward Olympic return

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Alistair Brownlee is already the only triathlete with multiple Olympic titles. In July, he is reportedly leaning toward another impressive feat, to win an Olympic gold medal the summer after completing the Kona Ironman World Championships.

The Brit Brownlee said he is “definitely swinging towards” trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games, according to the Times of London. Brownlee’s manager confirmed the stance while noting that his result in the Ironman Western Australia on Dec. 1 will play into the ultimate decision.

Brownlee previously reportedly said he was “50-50” on going for the Olympics and that he had to decide between focusing on the shorter Olympic distance or the Ironman, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon.

Other Olympic triathletes transitioned to the Ironman and never went back, such as 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno of Germany and two-time U.S. Olympian Sarah True.

Brownlee finished 21st in Kona on Oct. 12 in 8 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds, which was 33:50 behind the winner Frodeno.

Brownlee won four half Ironmans between 2017 and 2018 (sandwiched by a hip surgery), then finished second to Frodeno at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship on Sept. 2.

One other triathlete won an Olympic title after completing the Kona Ironman — Austrian Kate Allen, who was seventh in Kona in 2002, then took gold at the 2004 Athens Games.

MORE: 2019 Kona Ironman World Championships Results

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Alberto Salazar appeals doping ban

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Court of Arbitration for Sport says it has registered an appeal by track coach Alberto Salazar against his ban for doping violations, though a hearing will take several months to prepare.

CAS says Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown appealed against their four-year bans by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

After a multi-year USADA investigation, Salazar and Brown were found guilty of doping violations linked to the Nike Oregon Project training camp. USADA said Salazar ran experiments with supplements and testosterone, and possessed and trafficked the banned substance.

The case also related to falsified and incomplete medical records that disguised the work.

CAS says Salazar and Brown asked for more time to file “written submissions and evidence,” adding the hearing is “unlikely to take place before March.”

Verdicts typically take at least a further several weeks.

MORE: Mary Cain raises issues from being coached by Salazar

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