Why was Russian Olympic skater Kamila Valieva using ‘cocktail’ of substances?

Written by on February 16, 2022

On the floor, the next clarification seems like simply one other lame excuse for dishonest with medicine in sports activities:

After an elite Russian determine skater not too long ago examined constructive for a banned performance-enhancing substance, her lawyer advised she ingested the drug unknowingly through her grandfather, who takes the treatment for coronary heart hassle. Maybe she drank from the identical glass as him, her legal professional stated, based on the File Middle, an investigative web site run by exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

However is that even believable?

To assist make clear this newest Olympics scandal, USA TODAY Sports activities consulted with doping specialists and reviewed a latest historical past of this explicit drug in sports activities. That is at the least the third straight winter Olympics through which trimetazidine – a banned heart treatment drug – has been an issue. It’s additionally not the primary time an athlete claimed she ingested it unknowingly. In at the least one case, an American swimmer finally proved she didn’t take it on function.

Kamila Valieva competes in the women's short program at the Beijing Olympics.

But an enormous distinction on this case is that the identical skater, 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, has been taking two different coronary heart remedy substances – a sign that it might be a part of a classy performance-enhancing technique by the Russians. Both that, or she has coronary heart issues at age 15 whereas nonetheless claiming she took a type of coronary heart medicines by chance.

“That info raises a complete a number of questions and appears to level to not a 15-year-old simply innocently stumbling into one thing,” U.S. Anti-Doping Company chief govt Travis Tygart instructed USA TODAY Sports activities Tuesday.

The skater’s different substances

Valieva declared on a doping management kind that she was taking hypoxen and L-carnitine, based on a doc posted by the File Middle from the World Anti-Doping Company. These two substances usually are not banned by the WADA however can be utilized to deal with coronary heart points.

Together with the presence of trimetazidine, this raises crimson flags for Tygart of USADA. That’s as a result of L-carnitine, a dietary complement, is used to spice up metabolism and battle fatigue. Equally, hypoxen is used to deal with oxygen deficiency and battle fatigue as effectively.

WHAT IS IT? What is trimetazidine and how is it used?

Hypoxen is a drug that isn’t accepted to be used within the U.S. and is marketed by a Russian firm, Cosmic Nootropics, as being “utilized by athletes to enhance bodily efficiency, but it’s not on the WADA Prohibited Listing.”

Likewise, the guts remedy drug trimetazidine helps with endurance however will not be accepted to be used within the U.S. It’s listed by WADA beneath the class of banned “hormone and metabolic modulators” for athletes.

“You employ hypoxen and L-carnitine to get the efficiency advantages, and hypoxen is marketed as decreasing hypoxia, shortness of breath, tiredness, all of which might be an ideal match for somebody who’s skating in two separate occasions … having to do a protracted program and a brief program,” Tygart instructed USA TODAY Sports activities.

He stated the mixed “cocktail” of those three substances utilized by a 15-year-old Olympic athlete is indicative of a classy performance-enhancing technique by the Russians, who’ve a long trail of systematic doping. He stated in any other case it’s arduous to consider {that a} 15-year-old would “have the wherewithal and class to be knowingly taking these substances to extend their significance or have the assets to search out them.”

If the skater has precise coronary heart points requiring treatment, Tygart questioned whether or not she would wish all three of those medicine for it, which additionally occur for use for performance-enhancing causes.

The skater’s mom stated at a latest listening to on the matter that her daughter was taking hypoxen to deal with “coronary heart variations,” based on the WADA doc. WADA declined remark.

This substance within the Olympics

This marks at the least the third straight winter Olympics through which trimetazidine has been an issue. However that is the one a type of three circumstances through which the athlete who examined constructive for it was not disqualified.

In 2014, Ukrainian cross-county skier Marina Lisogor tested positive for it and was expelled from the Sochi Video games regardless of saying she took it in her treatment unknowingly.

In 2018, Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva was disqualified from the Pyeongchang Video games after testing positive for the same substance. In that case, a Russian medical official advised the bobsledder’s mom, a health care provider, gave her coronary heart drugs containing the substance.

Within the present case, Valieva has not been disqualified. She is scheduled to skate within the lengthy program on the Beijing Olympics on Thursday night time after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in her favor Monday, partly due to her standing as a “protected individual” beneath world anti-doping guidelines as an athlete beneath age 16. The drug pattern at subject was collected Dec. 25 in Russia, however the findings weren’t reported by the lab in Sweden till Feb. 8, based on the Worldwide Testing Company.

“The idea of contamination is legitimate,” stated toxicology skilled Pascal Kintz, who manages a forensic consulting enterprise in France. He instructed USA TODAY Sports activities in an e-mail that it relies on the focus within the urine and the way the athlete was in touch with the drug.

Valieva’s check revealed 2.1 nanograms per milliliter, based on the WADA doc. Kintz known as this a “low focus.” Two scientific specialists engaged on her behalf at a latest listening to took the place that the focus was suitable with contamination but additionally acknowledged that it was suitable with the tip of the excretion interval after a full dose of trimetazidine, based on the doc.

It’s nonetheless a a lot greater focus than was present in former U.S. Nationwide Workforce swimmer, Madisyn Cox, who initially advised she ingested the identical substance by consuming faucet water in Austin, Texas. She was suspended for 2 years by FINA in 2018 after 0.1 nanograms per milliliter have been detected in her urine, based on case paperwork.

She later submitted two bottles of her Cooper Full Elite Athlete multivitamin for testing at a WADA-accredited lab in Utah. Trimetazidine then was detected at roughly 4 nanograms per pill in these multivitamins. Her suspension later was decreased to 6 months.

Tygart factors out that the Cox case concerned ranges of trimetazidine that have been many instances decrease than the extent reported within the case of the Russian determine skater.

“I believe you want extra than simply, ‘Oh, my grandfather takes it,’” on this case, Tygart stated.

Observe reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

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