President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday blamed Russian sports officials for failing to warn athletes that meldonium was being banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Putin told a government meeting that officials “did not update our stop-lists and inform our athletes, trainers and other specialists in time about the WADA decision to ban individual drugs.”
The Kremlin strongman said that officials had demonstrated a “lack of understanding” of the importance of Russia’s fight against doping and failed to react promptly.
“If this drug (meldonium) was added to the WADA prohibited list, this should have been kept in mind and been reacted to accordingly,” Putin said, urging the government to step up its fight against athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted earlier this month that she had tested positive for meldonium — a drug used by Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s to increase endurance — at the Australian Open in January.
Meldonium is manufactured in Latvia and prescribed to treat heart disease.
The drug is available as an over-the-counter medication in many parts of Eastern Europe but not approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.
WADA said last week that it had recorded 99 positive tests for the drug since its ban came into force on January 1.
A report by a WADA independent commission published in November alleged state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in Russian athletics, prompting the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to provisionally suspend Russia.
Moscow has pledged to undertake sweeping reforms to revamp its scandal-ridden anti-doping programme in time for its track and field stars to compete at this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.