Top gymnast Kuksenkov tests positive for meldonium

The 26-year-old Kuksenkov, who competed for Ukraine before 2012, finished fourth in the all-round event at London Olympics. He won the 2014 European championship and was the top Russian gymnast at the 2015 World Championships.

Russian gymnast and 2014 European champion Nikolai Kuksenkov has tested positive for performance enhancing drug meldonium.   -  AP

European champion gymnast Nikolai Kuksenkov has become the latest Russian sportsman to test positive for the banned drug meldonium, local media reported on Sunday.

"The sample which Kuksenkov gave for testing on March 15 showed the presence of the traces of meldonium," the Allsport agency quoted Russia's national gymnastics team head coach Valentina Rodionenko as saying.

Rodionenko added that the gymnast took meldonium last year, before the drug has been included into the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list on January 1.

The 26-year-old Kuksenkov, who competed for Ukraine before 2012, finished fourth in the all-round event at London Olympics. He won the 2014 European championship and was the top Russian gymnast at the 2015 World Championships, finishing sixth in the all-around after joining the Russian team.

Meldonium was propelled into the headlines last month after Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova announced she had tested positive for the drug at the Australian Open in January.

Since then, a string of Russian athletes, including Olympic swimmer Yulia Efimova and figure skating Olympic champion Yekaterina Bobrova have admitted to testing positive for the drug.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said last week that 27 of the country’s athletes had tested positive for meldonium since the endurance-boosting substance was banned.

Russia’s scandal-ridden athletics federation — suspended in November after a WADA independent commission found evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russian track and field — announced four meldonium cases among its athletes earlier this month.

Moscow has vowed to reform its anti-doping programme in time for its track and field stars to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.