By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The presence of less than one microgram of meldonium in doping samples in tests conducted on athletes before March 1 this year is acceptable, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Wednesday.
Meldonium was added to WADA's list of banned substances on Jan. 1, 2016, with athletes around the world being informed of the decision in the autumn of 2015.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who had recently said 40 Russian sportsmen and women failed dope tests for meldonium, including tennis player Maria Sharapova and swimmer Yulia Efimova, 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 Skaing Union (RSU), said that five-time World Champion Pavel Kulizhnikov and 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 was quoted as saying by 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."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)