At least 14 athletes from Russia and Georgia had their doping suspensions lifted today, two days after officials relaxed the rules about meldonium. The drug was banned for 2016, prompting at least 172 failed tests worldwide. But the World Anti-Doping Agency changed its guidance on Wednesday, saying athletes could be cleared if only minute traces of the drug were found in their system.
Many athletes who tested positive had argued they stopped taking meldonium, which is typically recommended for heart disease patients, before it was banned.
In the former Soviet nation of Georgia, six athletes from the national wrestling team had provisional suspensions lifted, including Olympic silver medalist Davit Modzmanishvili and European silver medalist Beka Lomtadze.
“In their blood, less than one microgram of meldonium was found,” Temuri Ukleba, vice president of the Georgian anti-doping agency, told The Associated Press. “They took it before the ban.”
In Russia, the national Olympic committee said eight suspensions were lifted. Those who benefited include 400-meter runner Nadezhda Kotlyarova, who was a semifinalist at last year’s world championships, plus track cyclists, a bobsledder and a skeleton racer.
The announcements today follow a case on Thursday when the International Weightlifting Federation said two-time Olympic medalist Andrei Rybakov of Belarus had his suspension lifted.
Lifting a provisional suspension doesn’t mean the case is dismissed in full, but athletes are typically able to compete and train as part of their teams until final decisions are issued.
The WADA ruling means future bans in such cases are unlikely.