Ukraine’s canoe sprint paddler Oleksandr Senkevych has been handed a four-year ban after testing positive for a banned substance last year. After a test by the National Anti-Doping Agency of Ukraine during a competition on June 15, 2019, his sample returned with a positive showing for heart attack drug meldonium.

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Meldonium was initially designed in the Soviet Union to be used on animals and has since been used for those with coronary artery disease. It is said to boost endurance. Senkevych will serve a ban from October 22, 2019, until October 21, 2023.

He competed in the 2019 International Canoe Federation (ICF) Canoe Sprint World Championships, finishing seventh in the men’s K2 200 meters. The 31-year-old also finished sixth in the B final of the men’s K1 200m at the 2018 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships.

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He also finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the B finals of the 2014 and 2013 editions of the Championships. Meldonium has been prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency since January 1, 2016. Nearly 500 doping failures for the drug were recorded during the rest of 2016, including Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova.

Many athletes claimed that they were unaware the drug had been banned. There was also debate about how long meldonium stays in an athlete’s system, with some who failed to claim they had stopped taking it before the January 1 deadline. 

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