World Anti-Doping Agency says there is “currently a lack of clear scientific information” on how long it takes for the recently-banned drug to leave the body

Athletes to have tested positive for meldonium will not necessarily be handed a suspension, according to a notice released by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on the recently-banned drug.

Meldonium was added to the WADA prohibited list from January 1 of this year and on Wednesday (April 13) the agency announced that there had been 172 Adverse Analytical Findings for the drug across a range of sports since that date.

Track and field athletes Nataliya Lupu (pictured), Abeba Aregawi and Gabriela Petrova are among those to have reportedly tested positive for meldonium.

In the notice, WADA stated that there is “currently a lack of clear scientific information” on how long it takes for the substance to leave the body.

The agency announced last September that meldonium would be added to its prohibited list from January 1, but a number of athletes to have failed drugs tests for the substance since then have said that they stopped taking meldonium last year.

“There is no doubt as to the status of meldonium as a prohibited substance,” said WADA president Sir Craig Reedie. “There is equally no doubt that the principle of strict liability under the Code; as well as, the well established process for results management and adjudication prevail.

“Since meldonium was prohibited on 1 January of this year, there have been 172 positive samples for the substance, for athletes across numerous countries and sports.  Concurrently, there has been a call by stakeholders for further clarification and guidance.

“WADA recognizes this need — that meldonium is a particular substance, which has created an unprecedented situation and therefore warranted additional guidance for the anti-doping community.”

The notice on meldonium, which can be found here, reads in part: “In the case of meldonium, there is currently a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times. For this reason, a hearing panel might justifiably find (unless there is specific evidence to the contrary) that an athlete who has established on the balance of probabilities that he or she ingested meldonium before 1 January 2016 could not reasonably have known or suspected that the meldonium would still be present in his or her body on or after 1 January 2016.

“In these circumstances, WADA considers that there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete.

“However, given that the presence of meldonium in the athlete’s sample collected on or after 1 January 2016 constitutes an anti-doping rule violation, the disqualification of the athlete’s results shall (even where there is no fault or negligence) be dealt with in accordance with the applicable Code provisions. If the sample was collected in competition, then the results in the competition in question will be automatically disqualified in accordance with Article 9 of the Code.

“For all cases where the athlete is considered to be at fault for the presence of meldonium in his or her sample, all relevant criteria to assess the degree of fault/negligence and intention shall be assessed by: the level of the athlete’s due diligence, any medical justification, declaration on the doping control form, etc.”