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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Donagh Corby

Islam Makhachev tested positive for same banned substance as Maria Sharapova

Tonight's UFC lightweight title contender Islam Makhachev was once suspended from the sport after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.

The Dagestani grappler finally gets his shot at the gold tonight after just one loss in his 23 fights, and will have a home advantage of sorts in Abu Dhabi, where he is a wildly popular fighter. His career has seen him take some minor setbacks in and out of the octagon, with perhaps the biggest taking place in 2016 when he was temporarily banned for a positive drug test.

Ultimately, Makhachev was cleared of wrongdoing by USADA, but for a brief period between April 15 and July 27 fans feared the worst when his bout with Drew Dober at UFC on Fox 19 was pulled on weigh-in day. It was revealed he had tested positive for the substance, which was banned by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) three months earlier.

The substance had been allowed prior to January 2016, but was found to be used in enough athletes' cycles of PED usage to be worthy of a ban that year. It rose to prominence in mainstream sport when tennis star Maria Sharapova tested positive in March 2016 - though she insisted the drug was prescribed to her by her doctor to combat diabetes and magnesium deficiency.

Makhachev was found to have stopped taking the drug prior to the date it was banned in 2016, but Sharapova wasn't so lucky. She was banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation, and even the more lenient 15-month sentence she ended up with was considerably worse than any consequences her MMA counterpart faced.

"After a thorough review of the case, USADA concluded that the extremely low meldonium concentration in the athlete's urine sample, combined with the athlete's explanation of use, was consistent with ingestion prior to the substance being officially prohibited on January 1, 2016," a USADA statement read. "Based on the latest guidance offered by WADA on June 30, 2016, for cases involving meldonium, Makhachev will not face a period of ineligibility for his positive test."

Islam Makhachev once had a positive drug test scare (Zuffa LLC)

Do you believe that Islam Makhachev will be crowned the UFC lightweight champion tonight? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Fans had been quick to make the link between Makhachev failing shortly after losing his sole MMA bout; a freak knockout to Adriano Martins, who would never win again after stopping the Dagestani fighter. But it appears he had actually been prescribed it years earlier following a "radio frequency ablation procedure for frequent ventricular arrhythmia" he underwent in December 2014.

Makhachev's physician recommended the fighter take meldonium "as a preventive measure against a potential relapse" in November 2015 just in case there were any flare-ups. He took it for four weeks, stopping the date the drug was added to the banned list. He was quickly re-booked for a bout with Chris Wade, which he won by decision to kickstart a ten-fight winning streak that has lasted until tonight's main event.

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