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GIRMAY Birahun is a little-known Ethiopian marathon runner who will soon hold a unique and unwanted distinction — he will be the first athlete sent to jail for doping. He tested positive for meldonium and, in terms of a new Ethiopian Athletics policy will spend three years in prison for his “crime”. Meldonium was the drug that Maria Sharapova and dozens of other athletes fell foul of at the start of 2016. Most were cleared completely. They claimed that the drug stayed in their bodies long enough to be detected even after they stopped using it. Because the authorities did not have strong pharmacological evidence to refute this claim, and nobody knew with certainty how long it would take to clear the drug from the body, this line of defence worked. Sharapova, on the other hand, confessed. She claimed she‘d failed to read an e-mail warning her about the ban on the drug, and that she'd been using it to treat heart problems and a family history of diabetes.

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