Belarus tennis player escapes punishment over meldonium

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LONDON (AP) — A player from Belarus has escaped punishment after testing positive for meldonium, the same substance found in Maria Sharapova's sample at the Australian Open, the International Tennis Federation says.

Doubles specialist Sergei Betov will not face a ban because the concentration in his sample taken at the same Australian Open on Jan. 21 was less than one microgram per milliliter, the level set by the World Anti-Doping Agency for more lenient treatment.

The ITF says Betov was provisionally suspended on March 12. But the federation has now ruled it was "more likely than not" that Betov tested positive because he took a course of meldonium tablets in October, before the heart drug was banned on Jan. 1.

As a result, "Mr Betov did not know, and could not have known or suspected, even with the exercise of utmost caution, that the meldonium would still be in his system" by the time of the Australian Open, the ITF added.

The 28-year-old Betov, who is world-ranked No. 77 in doubles, and partner Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia lost in the first round at the Australian Open. Betov loses his prize money from the tournament.

Sharapova would not be eligible for the same treatment as Betov because the concentration of meldonium in her sample was above the level set by WADA. No date has been set for a hearing in her case.

Sharapova, who was also provisionally suspended last month, said she had been taking meldonium for medical reasons and was not aware it had been banned for 2016, a decision first announced by WADA in September.

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