LAUSANNE, Switzerland, April 2. RELAY world record holder Vitalii Melnikov began serving a provisional suspension yesterday after results of drug tests at the European championships came up positive for banned substances.
Melnikov was part of two relay world record squads at Europeans in December, which would have prompted drug tests at the meet per FINA rules. He also won silver in the 100 back in the meet. According to FINA, Melnikov tested positive for the hormone Erythropoietin during two separate tests on December 12 and 13. On December 12, Melnikov swam backstroke on the world record-setting men’s 200 medley relay and participated in the mixed 200 medley relay that set a world mark the following day.
According to Wikipedia, Erythropoietin (best known as EPO) helps in the production of red blood cells, giving the body a higher ability to deliver oxygen to fatigued muscles. It was one of the most popular drugs in road cycling by admitted users Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis and others.
Melnikov’s suspension is labeled “provisional” until he meets with the FINA Doping Panel at an unspecified time. If the suspension is made official by FINA, the men’s 200 medley relay world record of 1:32.38 would be stripped from Russia and given to Italy, which swam a 1:33.65 in the European championships prelims. The mixed medley relay record has since been broken, so no major revisions will need to be made in light of today’s doping news.