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Mon Mar 21, 2016 | 3:41 AM EDT

Four Russian track-and-field athletes test positive for meldonium
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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Four Russian track-and-field athletes have tested positive for the banned drug meldonium, Russia’s athletics chief said on Monday, a disclosure that further undermines Moscow’s efforts to overturn a doping ban in time for the Olympic Games.
At least 16 Russian sportsmen and women, including world tennis star Maria Sharapova and speed skating Olympic gold-medalist Semion Elistratov, have been caught using meldonium since it was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency on Jan. 1.
The burgeoning scandal is complicating Russia’s drive to prove it is compliant with anti-doping standards after it was suspended from international competition last year following revelations of widespread cheating and corruption.
If it cannot get the suspension lifted, Russian athletes will miss the Olympics starting in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5. That would be a humiliating blow to a country that has long drawn pride and prestige from its sporting prowess.
Russian sprinter and 2013 European Championship silver-medalist Nadezhda Kotlyarova said on Sunday she had used meldonium, despite previous reassurances from Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko that meldonium had nothing to do with athletics in his country.
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Dmitry Shlyakhtin, head of the Russian Athletics Federation(ARAF), said on Monday four athletes had tested positive.
“We have information that four people gave positive tests for meldonium. We will deal with this today,” the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
He did not name the athletes and it was unclear whether he was including Kotlyarova as one of the four.
Shlyakhtin said the positive meldonium tests would not further complicate the situation around his federation.
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Russia athletics chief: positive meldonium tests will not ‘complicate’ situation

“It won’t aggravate (the situation), it’s complex anyway,” he told R-Sport news agency.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov/Andrew Osborn)
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Russia athletics chief: positive meldonium tests will not ‘complicate’