Also called Mildronate (brand name), meldonium is a drug used for treating several vascular and heart diseases. In other words, it treats conditions that block oxygen and blood to the heart. Besides addressing coronary artery diseases, the drug boosts athletic and training performance, shortens the time it takes athletes to recover their expended energy, protects against stress, and improves central nervous system functions.   

Ivars Kalvins, a Latvian scientist, invented meldonium during the 1980s. The Latvian firm, Grindeks makes the drug and distributes it to different parts of the world, primarily Russia and the Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). Meldonium is among Grindeks’ top-selling medicines. Grindeks isn’t the only company making drugs containing meldonium. Several other no-name companies also make meldonium-containing drugs in the Latvian and Baltic region.

Function and Usage

Meldonium was made to primarily treat cardiovascular and heart disorders, which includes cardiomyopathy (heart muscle abnormality), chronic heart failure, and ischemic circulation problems (decreased blood flow to specific body parts). As far as performance is concerned, the drug shifts metabolism, or it replaces fat metabolism with carbohydrate metabolism. As a result, the body starts using carbohydrate to fuel its requirements. Carbohydrates need less oxygen to make energy.

According to the drug’s maker, even military units across the globe use the medicine to adjust to reduced amounts of oxygen in the air when they’re stationed at high altitudes or in polluted environments. In fact, the Russian army used the drug during the 1980s for enhancing their stamina during their fight against Afghanistan. For athletes, the drug helps increase their endurance qualities and aerobic capabilities.

WADA Ban

Meldonium was added to the list of banned substances on September 16, 2015 by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for its “metabolic modulator” traits. The agency banned the substance because it aided with endurance, and athletes intentionally used the drug for enhancing performance. The rule to ban the medicine came into effect on January 1, 2016. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the drug in America. The drug is also banned by the European Medicines Agency for use in most parts of Europe, excluding the Baltic countries and Russia.

The medicine came to light when it was suspected that athletes were ingesting high levels of meldonium for enhancing performance during the 2015 European Games, held in Baku. WADA has been monitoring the drug since 2015, the time when it was added to its monitoring program.

Ban Reaction

According to the drug’s inventor, banning meldonium would make life tough on the field for professional athletes. He said the medicine protected athletes’ hearts during intense training and competition, and its ability to enhance performance hasn’t been proved. The Latvian company that produces the drug, Grindeks Pharmaceuticals claims the drug safeguards ailing cells, and doesn’t provide increased energy to normal cells. However, Mario Thevis (an anti-doping expert) confirmed meldonium enhances mental and physical workload capabilities and facilitates recovery.