Here's what the drug Maria Sharapova was taking does to your body

Former world no. 1 tennis champion Maria Sharapova has been banned from tennis for two years, the ITF announced on Wednesday
She won’t be available to play again until January 2018.
Along with the suspension, Sharapova will be docked the $375,000 and ranking points she earned for reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.

Sharapova admitted in March that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open. She’d been found to have been taking meldonium, a drug added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances in January 2016.

What is meldonium?

Meldonium (also known as Mildronate) is used to treat inadequate blood flow to the organs, especially the heart.

According to the Latvian pharmaceutical company Grindex, which manufactures the drug, it helps protect patients with chest pain caused by heart disease against tissue damage, chronic heart failure, and brain circulation disorders.

It can also improve physical capacity and mental function — in everyone, not just those with disorders.

Sharapova said she’d been taking the drug since 2006 because of several health concerns, including magnesium deficiency, irregular results on a heart function test called an EKG, and diabetes, which she said runs in her family.

What does it do to the body?

In people with diabestes, taking meldonium along with other drugs may help lesson symptoms and severity of the illness, according to some animal studies and severeral small studies of the drug in people.

In healthy people, though, the drug may increase endurance by raising oxygen uptake, which is why it was banned by anti-doping authorities, the Associated Press reports.

Meldonium is legal in Lithuania, but it is not approved for use in the US. Before it was banned, meldonium was popular among Russian athletes, according to AP reporter James Ellingworth.

Who’s taking it?

Sharapova said she was unaware the drug had been added to the list of banned substances.

“For the past 10 years I have been taking a medicine called Mildronate by my doctor, my family doctor, and a few days ago after I received the letter from the ITF [International Tennis Federation] I found out it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know,” Sharapova said, according to the BBC.

She added that she had been legally taking the medicine for the past decade.

Still, Sharapova isn’t the only athlete who’s tested positive for meldonium. Former European ice-dancing champion Ekaterina Bobrova told Russian media in March that she’d failed a test for the drug as well, the AP reported. And in February, some news agencies reported that former world champion 1,500-meter runner Abeba Aregawi had tested positive for the drug.

Tanya Lewis contributed to an earlier version of this story.

NOW WATCH: Watch Maria Sharapova explain why she failed a drug test

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