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UFC flyweight Liliya Shakirova gets two-year suspension for meldonium positive

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UFC 254: Khabib v Gaethje Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After one appearance in the UFC, Liliya Shakirova has been given a two-year suspension for failing to disclose her use of a banned drug before her octagon debut.

Shakirova, 29, failed an out-of-competition drug test for meldonium, a Latvian drug at the center of anti-doping controversy among athletes from Russia and other Eastern-block countries, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced on Monday.

Meldonium is primarily used to treat heart and cardiovascular diseases, but is also linked to performance-enhancement and is banned at all times by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which classifies it as a non-specified substance in the category of hormone and metabolic modulators.

Shakirova fought Lauren Murphy at UFC 254 in October 2020, but on Dec. 20 of the same year came up positive for meldonium. USADA does not punish athletes who declare their use of banned substances in an onboarding form filled out upon signing with the UFC; depending on the substance, athletes can be barred competition for six months and asked to provide at least two clean drug tests prior to fighting.

In Shakirova’s case, USADA found she did not disclose her previous use of meldonium, subjecting her to the suspension she accepted.

In 2016, meldonium was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), whose standards USADA follows while administering the UFC’s drug testing program. The same year, tennis player Maria Sharapova tested positive for the drug and was given a 15-month suspension. Studies on the drug showed it helped athletes recover from tough training sessions.

Several Olympic athletes who tested positive for meldonium argued they stopped taking the drug one year before it was banned, and WADA subsequently modified its threshold for a positive to reflect use before the ban.

Prior to her loss to Murphy, Shakirova went 8-1 on the international circuit with three straight wins bolstering her octagon debut.

Shakirova will be eligible to compete again on Dec. 5, 2022, two years after the date of her positive test.