PARIS: Belarusian tennis player Sergey Betov has escaped punishment despite testing positive for meldonium, the same substance that has brought a halt to the career of superstar Maria Sharapova.
Betov, 28, failed a drugs test at the Australian Open where he had been playing doubles.
But since the amount of meldonium discovered in his sample was below that set by the world anti-doping agency (WADA) earlier this month, he has been allowed to resume playing after serving a provisional suspension from March 12.
In their notice, WADA also stated that if an anti-doping organization found that an athlete could not reasonably have known or suspected that meldonium would still be present on or after January 1, 2016, then a finding of no fault or negligence may be made.
“The International Tennis Federation (ITF) accepted that it is more likely than not that the meldonium found in Mr Betov’s sample came from a course of Mildronate tablets that he took for six weeks ending in late October 2015,” said the ITF in a statement.
“Mr Betov did not know, and could not have known or suspected, even with the exercise of utmost caution, that the meldonium would still be in his system as of January 21, 2016 (the date of his failed test).
“Accordingly, it was determined that Mr. Betov bore no fault or negligence for the violation…and so he is free to start competing again with immediate effect.”
Meldonium was only placed on the banned list on January 1 since when there have been more than 170 test failures.
But WADA has said that athletes could escape a ban for taking meldonium because it does not know for sure how long it takes the substance to leave the body.
Five-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one Sharapova admitted in March that she had tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open.
The Russian, who has been provisionally suspended, maintains she took the drug for health reasons, and not as a performance enhancer, and was unaware it had been banned at the start of the year.
A doping tribunal has yet to meet to decide her fate.