Meldonium Sell More in Russia After Maria Sharapova Tests Positive

Alleged meldonium abuse could damage Russian tennis star, Maria Sharapova’s career, but the banned drug is reportedly disappearing from medicine shops in Russia and Latvia after Sharapova’s failed drug test.

What was bad publicity for Sharapova is turning out to be a good business for Grindeks, the Latvian company that manufactures meldonium.

Before media broadcast of the issue, few people across the world knew about the drug, but now rapid sales reportedly show Russians and Latvians want to emulate the Russian star. Sales of mildronate in Russian online pharmacy sites have remarkably grown, according to reports.

It has also come to light that the banned drug is widely used despite little evidence showing it enhances performance. The presence of meldonium in the athlete’s blood during or between sports is a violation of the current anti-doping rules.

The Independent reported on the soaring sales of now banned meldonium.

If it’s good enough for Sharapova – and many other Russian athletes – it must be good enough for ordinary people, too, at least judging by the sales figures.

Grindeks hinted an increase in sales of the pills and expects it to double in Russia in March compared to February. Fortune quoted Alexander Kondratiev, a marketing manager for Grindeks saying “There is no shortage at drug stores, and you can still buy mildronate easily.”

“Meldonium, also known as mildronate is most commonly used in Eastern European and ex-Soviet countries as a drug for people with heart conditions, but it’s also offered for sale online. There are also signs that a sizable minority of athletes were using before it was banned,” The New York Times reported.

The inexpensive drug is in demand for a wide variety of ailments and it has been around in former Eastern Bloc countries for decades. Reportedly Soviet troops used meldonium as a pain killer.

Sportsmen use meldonium as a performance booster because the drug increases stamina, which is available as a capsule or injection. Use of performance enhancing drug by athletes is nothing new. Reportedly, use of substances to enhance performance dates back over 2,000 years to the Ancient Olympic Games.

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) included meldonium in the list of banned substances, effective January 1, 2016 following concerns of its misuse in sports. On the other side, the inventor of the drug warned WADA that the ban on the drug “may soon contribute to a higher death rate among professional athletes,” Business Standard reported.

So far, more than 60 athletes have tested positive for meldonium. It is pertinent to note that Russian leaders accused the West of an anti-Russian bias for banning the drug because of its Russian origins.

Reportedly, Sharapova started using meldonium following advise from a family-approved doctor in 2006 when it was not on the WADA’s banned substances list.

Having said that, meldonium is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and is banned in the rest of Europe. But it was a doctor from the Unted States who prescribed the drug to Sharapova. She has been provisionally suspended and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) is investigating the case. A number of major sponsors, including Nike, suspended their association with the tennis star.

While Shapapova’s drug violation could prove expensive for her career, media publicity has triggered a sudden spike in meldonium curiosity online. Those unaware about the drug are now curious. Can a correlation be established behind the Sharapova failed test and the rise in meldonium sales.

Seemingly, the world is getting more and more curious about the suggested performance-enhancing properties of meldonium. What do you think?

[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]