The World Anti-Doping Agency says some athletes who tested positive for meldonium may be able to avoid sanctions because of a lack of certainty over how long the drug takes to clear from the system.
Wada says provisional suspensions can be lifted if it is determined that an athlete took meldonium before it was placed on the list of banned substances on Jan. 1.
More than 120 positive tests for meldonium have been recorded since the drug was prohibited by Wada. The highest profile case involves Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, who announced that she tested positive during the Australian Open in January.
In a notice sent to national anti-doping agencies and international sports federations, WADA says “limited data exists” on the time it takes for meldonium to clear the system.
The Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, who had recently said 40 Russian sportsmen and women failed dope tests for meldonium welcomed the decision by the world body.
“The Russian sports ministry supports and welcomes the decision made by Wada because it has showed a willingness to understand the situation, rather than stick to the rulebook,” Mutko said in a statement on Wednesday.
“They were ready to study how long it would take for meldonium to be eliminated from the body of an athlete. Wada has demonstrated impartiality and being objective in the fight against doping.”
Alexei Kravtsov, the president of the Russian Skating Union, said that five-times world champion Pavel Kulizhnikov and the 2014 Olympic short-track gold medalist Semen Elistratov – both found to have taken meldonium – should be allowed to compete again after the Wada decision.
“These sportsmen should be allowed to fall under the amnesty due to the amount found in their doping tests,” Kravtsov told the R-Sport news agency. “They were not guilty, as we had been saying earlier. This is of course good news, but there is still a bit of a cloud hanging over all of this.”