Russia has ‘many questions’ for WADA on Meldonium ban: Lavrov

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday said Moscow has “many questions” over the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ban on Meldonium after tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted testing positive for the drug.

“The recent situation where there is such a flurry of bans and accusations against our leading great athletes raises many questions,” Russia’s top diplomat said in an interview with REN TV channel.

“I consider that in response to professional questions, there should follow professional explanations (from WADA),” he said in a rare comment on Russian sport.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion, on Monday admitted she had tested positive for Meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

WADA’s ban on the drug — which Soviet soldiers fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s took to increase their endurance — came into force on January 1.

Russian authorities have hinted that the ban on Meldonium, which was created in then-Soviet Latvia, unfairly targets athletes from the former USSR, where the drug is widely available.

“Maybe Meldonium was unlucky to have been born in Soviet Latvia?” Lavrov said.

“Had this happened after Latvia became part of the so-called ‘civilised’ world, maybe Meldonium would have had a different fate?” he said, referring to Latvia’s current European Union membership.

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 system in time for its track and field stars to compete at this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

But the presence of the Russian track team is still up in the air.

Former WADA president Dick Pound, who headed the agency’s independent commission, told AFP on Wednesday that Russia is “changing deckchairs on the Titanic” rather than working to overturn its suspension and that the Russian track team “may not make it” to Rio.

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