One individual athlete caught doping is bad enough. An entire team of under-age athletes failing drug tests is even worse. That’s exactly what happened to a team of teenage Russian ice hockey players in a doping scandal regarded as one of the biggest in the sport.
Positive for meldonium
The players, all members of Russia’s under-18 team, were all found positive for meldonium. As you can recall, meldonium is the same drug that brought down tennis superstar Maria Sharapova last month in a doping scandal that shocked the world of sports.
The team was scheduled to compete in a major tournament in the United States. After failing the drug tests, however, the team was pulled out from the competition. Its head coach, Vitali Prokhorov, was also immediately fired.
Read the report by James Mirtle for The Globe and Mail here.
Sharapova doping excuse not applicable here
If you can recall, Sharapova claimed she had been using meldonium to help her with health issues, including irregular heartbeat and a history of diabetes in her family. Meldonium, which is manufactured in Latvia and distributed only in Russia and some Baltic nations, is designed to increase blood flow. That gives it performance-enhancing properties, as increased blood flow also translates to increased capacity for exercise. This is why it was banned in January this year.
In any case, there simply is no way for a bunch of healthy and athletic teenagers to truthfully claim they’re all using meldonium for health reasons, is there? What’s pretty obvious here is that a bunch of adults made them take the drug for a competitive edge. And this doping scandal pretty much ruins the prospective careers of several members of the team, who are said to have potential to be drafted into the National Hockey League.
Few things are as detestable as talking under-age athletes into taking performance enhancing drugs just so they can win. The governing body of the sport needs to look deeper into this, and severely punish those responsible.