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Russian bobsledder Sergeeva tests positive for meldonium

Russia's two-women bobsleigh pilot Nadezhda Sergeeva speeds down the track during unoffical progressive training at the Sanki sliding center in Rosa Khutor, a venue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics near Sochi, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva, who competed at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, has tested positive for the banned substance meldonium.

Sergeeva, who finished 16th in the two-person bobsleigh in 2014 with her partner, Nadezhda Paleeva, joins at least 100 other athletes who have recorded positive tests for the drug. The most prominent was the tennis star Maria Sharapova, a five-time grand slam champion.

“I am just shocked about this news, because I am certain that I took this medication only at the end of last year, strictly under the instructions of the doctors from the Federal Medical-Biological Agency as well as cardiologists,” the 28-year-old told the R-Sport news agency.

“Of course, both the doctors who prescribed me this substance and I myself were one hundred percent certain that the meldonium would only stay in my system for two or three days and then by 1 January I would be completely clean.”

Meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances on Jan. 1, 2016. Since then, 100 athletes have been found to have used meldonium, Ben Nichols, WADA’s head of communications, said on Tuesday.

At least 11 of them are Russian athletes, including Sharapova, figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova and world champion speed-skater Pavel Kulizhnikov.

Use of meldonium was widespread before its banning. One study showed 490 athletes who competed in last year’s European Games in Baku had taken it.

Grindeks, the Latvian company that is the main supplier of the drug, says it could protect athletes from cell damage but was unlikely to improve their performance.

Reporting By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy, editing by Larry King