2022 Winter Olympics Live Updates: Latest Beijing Games News

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

When news broke that Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old figure skater who helped propel Russia to gold in the team competition and is a favorite in the women’s individual competition, had tested positive for a banned substance before the Olympics, the episode raised questions. who have repeatedly appeared in doping scandals.

Did the banned drug trimetazidine, known as TMZ, make a difference? Could this have helped Valieva?

Cardiac expert Dr. Benjamin J. Levine, a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, said no.

“The chance of trimetazidine improving its performance, in my opinion, is zero,” Dr. Levine said.

“The only chance would be that it hurt him,” he added.

Anti-doping experts disagree on whether trimetazidine could enhance Valieva’s performance, which is why its use is prohibited. It can be difficult to perform controlled studies on banned substances. But anti-doping experts said analyzes of the drug’s use, mostly by Eastern European athletes, indicate it can increase stamina and stamina, provide training benefits and perhaps aid recovery after intense workouts. Thus, they say, it could provide an unfair advantage by increasing oxygen-carrying capacity.

Trimetazidine is listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency in the category of hormonal and metabolic modulators, a class of drugs that athletes are known to use. performance improvement. It was added to the list of substances banned from use in competition in 2014 and banned from use out of competition in 2015. It is not authorized for sale in the United States.

The intended medical use of trimetazidine is to increase blood flow to the heart in patients who have chest pain because their heart arteries are blocked. But blood flow to the heart isn’t an issue in events like figure skating, Dr. Levine said, nor is the type of fuel used by the heart.

“The heart has a lot of blood,” Dr. Levine said. “And the heart is so good at using different fuels.”

But figure skating routines can last up to four minutes — far longer than the average 45-second shift in hockey — and are extremely taxing. A drug like trimetazidine, according to anti-doping experts, could illicitly increase endurance. This could be especially useful in the second half of routines, when skaters get bonus points for jumps.

This is not the first time trimetazidine has been used by Olympic athletes. In 2014, Chinese star swimmer Sun Yang tested positive and was suspended for three months. Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva has been disqualified and banned for eight months after testing positive for trimetazidine at the 2018 Games.

Trimetazidine is a metabolic cousin of meldonium, the use of which led to a surge of positive drug tests in 2016 in sports including tennis, speed skating, wrestling and athletics. Among those suspended was Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, who received a 15-month ban. At the 2018 Olympics, Russian curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii had his mixed doubles bronze medal stripped after testing positive for meldonium.

Because Valieva is under 16, she is considered a “protected person” by the World Anti-Doping Agency. If she can show that her use of trimetazidine was unintentional, she could receive a warning instead of a maximum two-year suspension and not face the potential loss of two gold medals. It is even possible that his reprimand will not be announced publicly. But because authorities failed to resolve his case before the start of the Olympics, his reputation was left in the lurch.

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