IAAF lifts Petrova suspension after U-turn on meldonium

Gabriela Petrova of Bulgaria competes in the women's triple jump qualification during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China August 22, 2015. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian triple jumper Gabriela Petrova had her doping suspension lifted by the IAAF on Monday, less than a week after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced an amnesty for athletes who had tested positive for meldonium before March 1. Petrova, silver medallist at the 2015 European indoor championships in Prague, had denied any wrongdoing after failing an out-of-competition drug test on Feb. 6, saying she had stopped taking the banned substance in September. ]"On the basis of WADA's notice issued on April 11, 2016 with respect to meldonium findings and the specifics of your case, the provisional suspension from international competitions imposed on March 31 is lifted with immediate effect," the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) wrote in a letter to Petrova, seen by Reuters. Last Wednesday, WADA said it was unable to establish how quickly meldonium, outlawed since Jan. 1, cleared the human body. Hence, WADA deemed that the "the presence of less than one microgram of meldonium" in samples provided by athletes before March 1 was acceptable. "I can breathe with ease now," 23-year-old Petrova, who finished fourth at the world outdoor championships in Beijing last year, said on Monday. "This is the notice I've waited so long for." Petrova, who was named Bulgaria's Athlete of the Year in December, pulled out of the world indoor championships in Portland, Oregon in March and is aiming to produce her best form and win a medal at the August 5-21 Rio Olympics. On Friday, at least 14 athletes from Russia and Georgia had their doping suspensions lifted following WADA's ruling. Olympic silver medallist Davit Modzmanashvili and European silver medallist Beka Lomtadze, both wrestlers from Georgia, were among those cleared. Meldonium, manufactured for people suffering from heart problems, helps boost blood flow and increases the amount of oxygen taken in by the body, allowing athletes to recover faster while training. The use of meldonium was widespread before the ban and since being made illegal on Jan 1. there have been at least 172 positive samples for the substance -- including former world number one tennis player Maria Sharapova. The Russian five-times grand slam champion, who said she took the drug for health reasons, has been provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation and is still waiting to hear the outcome of her case. One study showed 490 athletes at last year's European Games in Baku had taken it. Grindeks, the Latvian company that is the main supplier of the drug, says the substance could protect athletes from cell damage but is unlikely to improve their performance. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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