Competitive athletes are constantly looking for an extra edge to enhance their performance, as they strive to cut their speed by milliseconds, extend their focus, increase their energy, or enhance their endurance. Most look to disciplined diets, rigorous exercise regimens, or approved supplements to boost performance. Unfortunately, some turn to banned substances.

Regrettably, the biggest story to come out of the Olympic games thus far is not that 35-year-old Shaun White just missed the podium as he competed against 19-year-olds in the sport he defined; or that US figure skater Nathan Chen earned a world-record score in the men’s short program. The biggest story is that 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva from the Russian Olympic Committee, tested positive for a banned substance, trimetazidine. This revelation calls into question the validity of both the team and the ladies’ figure skating results, not to mention Valieva’s status as the reigning quad queen. While Valieva finished off the podium after a disappointing performance in her long program, the ROC earned a gold team medal that is now in question. 

What is Trimetazidine?

Trimetazidine is a medication typically prescribed for heart patients. It metabolizes fatty acids, which helps the body use oxygen; increases blood flow efficiency; and improves endurance – all critical to elite-level athletic performances. More importantly, since 2014, it has been on the list of prohibited substances managed by the World Anti-Doping Agency in the category of hormone and metabolic modulators.

In the past, Chinese swimmer Sun Yang served a three-month ban after testing positive for trimetazidine, and Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva was disqualified from the 2018 Olympics and served an eight-month ban for using the same drug.

Trimetazidine is just one of the many substances that appear on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) prohibited list. The list exists to ensure fair competition and protect the health of athletes. Use of banned substances undermines the hard work and dedication of athletes who follow the rules and play fair. It also results in disappointed fans who watch the Olympic Games to marvel at humans who push their athletic limits fairly and cleanly.

Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center

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