Former World No1 tennis star Maria Sharapova used a drug for 10 years despite it generally only being used for about six weeks, the Latvian manufacturers of meldonium say.
The five-times grand slam champion announced on Tuesday she had failed a doping test at the Australian Open in January for meldonium, which became a banned substance under the World Anti-Doping Agency code at the start of this year.
Sharapova, 28, said she taken meldonium, a heart medicine which improves blood flow, for 10 years to correct various health problems including regular sicknesses and “irregular” results from ECG exams.
“I was first given the substance back in 2006. I had several health issues going on at the time,” she said.
Meldonium was banned because it aids blood flow throughout the body and therefore oxygen uptake and endurance.
The Latvian company Grindeks, which manufactures meldonium, told Associated Press that four to six weeks was a common length of course for the drug.
“Depending on the patient’s health condition, treatment course of meldonium preparations may vary from four to six weeks. Treatment courses can be repeated twice or thrice a year,” the company said in an emailed statement.
“Only physicians can follow and evaluate patient’s health condition and state whether the patient should use meldonium for a longer period of time.”
Sharapova is likely to face a lengthy ban from tennis, which may effectively end her career.