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The drug that got Maria Sharapova suspended dates back to the Soviet Union

Yesterday, tennis player Maria Sharapova failed a drug test at the Australian Open, causing a number of her sponsors to drop their support. In the Pipeline reports that her drug of choice is meldonium, a blood flow–increasing compound that came out of Latvia in the 1970s, and still hasn’t been approved for use anywhere outside of the former Soviet Union. Thanks to the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed its own pathway for pharmaceutical research, discovering a number of drugs that even today have never managed to get approved elsewhere. Meldonium is prescribed to heart attack and stroke victims, but it seems to be especially popular among athletes—a 2015 study looking at a global sample of urine tests showed that about 2.2% contained the drug. Sharapova, however, claims she’s been using the drug for 10 years to deal with a family history of diabetes and a magnesium deficiency.

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