AFP Los Angeles, CA, United States
Jul 30, 2016, 10.58 AM
An Olympic medal winning swimmer linked to Russia's state-run doping scandal has tested positive for the banned meldonium, the US Anti-Doping Agency announced on Friday.
Nikita Lobintsev was already one of seven Russian swimmers banned from competing in the Rio Olympics by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) and USADA did not impose a new ban over the case.
On Thursday, the University of South California said it had suspended Russians Lobintsev and Vladimir Morozov from competing with its team.
USADA said the 27-year-old Lobintsev had been using meldonium for the past seven years. It was prescribed by Russia team doctors, who told him it would help strengthen his heart. Meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list at the beginning of 2016.
"The disturbing pattern of use associated with this performance-enhancing drug appears to be one more example of growing practice in sport in which coaches ask for, physicians prescribe, and athletes use pharmaceuticals not for their primary purpose of health and wellness but to enhance athletic performance," said USADA chief executive Travis Tygart in a statement.
Lobintsev, who told USADA he stopped using the drug 10 months ago, tested positive for meldonium on June 16 in an out-of-competition test.
"Based on the latest guidance offered by World anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on June 30, 2016, for cases involving meldonium, Lobintsev will not face a period of ineligibility or loss of results," the statement said.
USADA said meldonium was easily accessible to Russian athletes because it was available over the counter in Russian pharmacies. Lobintsev told the agency he used it after the world championships in August last year and again the following month.
The USC swim club said Thursday that Lobintsev and Morozov were no longer welcome to swim with the programme after they were named in an WADA investigation headed by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.
Lobintsev, who won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics and bronze at the 2012 Games, was banned from Rio after McLaren was able to show that Russian officials ordered a coverup of hundreds of doping tests.
USC swim coach Dave Salo added he was surprised at the FINA ban because Lobintsev and Morozov have trained with the team for a number of years and have undergone random drug tests by WADA and USADA. Those tests were carried out before meldonium was added to the banned substance list.
"They would be stupid to knowingly engage in doping," Salo told the Los Angeles Times newspaper.