THE Latvian company responsible for manufacturing meldonium, the banned performance enhancing drug that Maria Sharapova has tested positive for, have confirmed that a normal course of treatment lasts from four to six weeks.

Sharapova claims to have first used meldonium in 2006 after being prescribed the drug by a family-approved doctor, and continued to use it legally throughout her career. However, the 28-year-old Russian failed to acknowledge that the drug was banned on  January 1, 2016, given that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had discovered "evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance".

The five-time Grand Slam winner announced the news in a Los Angeles press conference on Monday in which she confirmed that she has knowingly taken the substance for the past decade, although she did not clarify how often she consumed meldonium - which is not an approved medication in the United States of America.

Manufacturer's Grindeks, the Latvian company responsible for making meldonium, told the Associated Press in an emailed statement: "Depending on the patient's health condition, treatment course of meldonium preparations may vary from four to six weeks. Treatment course can be repeated twice or thrice a year.

"Only physicians can follow and evaluate patient's health condition and state whether the patient should use meldonium for a longer period of time."

Meldonium is used to improve blood flow in patients suffering from cardiac and vascular diseases, but it has also been found to give healthy athletes a performance boost due to its ability to increase endurance and aerobic capabilities that led to its supposed abuse by sportsmen and sportswomen.

However, Grindeks claimed that the substance can also have a negative impact on a healthy athlete, adding: "It would be reasonable to recommend them to use meldonium as a cell protector to avoid heart failure or muscle damage in case of unwanted overload."

The Independent

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