Five time Olympic gold medallist, Katie Ledecky volunteered for a USADA to conduct dope tests remotely. (Pic: Katie Ledecky/Twitter)
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe issued a strong warning to athletes tempted to use performance enhancement drugs at this time with global sport at a standstill. While testing has been highly infrequent, Coe said athletes taking a part in such activities ‘will get caught’.
"Clearly, because of lockdown, curfews and international travel restrictions, [drugs] testing has been more difficult. But nobody should run away with the idea that there is no testing taking place at all. It is,” Coe said on the German channel Deutsche Welle. “I want to send a very clear message to the athletes: do not sit there thinking that this is a test-free zone. It isn't. If you choose to step outside the integrity of our sport, you will get caught."
While tests for banned substances around the globe have reduced because of restrictions on travel and social interactions, in March the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced they would be randomly testing athletes while they are in quarantine. An official number for the number of tests to be conducted has not been announced by the agency.
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The assumption is that the number of athletes trying to heat the system and taking advantage of the situation is small. The new normal though has led to some out of the box thinking, with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) at the forefront, piloting a virtual testing program.
The obvious problem of observing candidates as they generate samples is tackled by timing the athlete behind his or her washroom door and having them insert a thermometer into the urine sample to ensure its temperature matches that of urine expelled moments prior.
National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) chief Navin Agarwal also talked about getting a system into place to keep a check on athletes in India.
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“We had plans for the Olympics, which is now moved to next year, but given the circumstances, we have to work out a new play. So, different mechanisms of working out how in the post Corona era we can test athletes protecting them and our officers,” he said. “Gaps have occurred due to the circumstances, but we will manage and give the athletes a leveled playing field.” No plan however has been put into place as of now.
Over a month into the pandemic, with sporting activities halted and athlete movements severely restricted, NADA has failed to collect a single sample in April. Agarwal though had dismissed concerns over lax regimentation.
“We are looking at long-term doping plans rather than short-term ones. Since there are no competitions right now, athletes will not be indulging in short-term doping,” he said. “So we are looking at substances which will have a long-lasting impact and those used by the high-risk athletes. We will detect who’s done doping or hasn’t.”
A newsletter released by NADA revealed only 95 samples were collected in March before the lockdown was imposed, in contrast to the more than 500 that were collected in February. The events that NADA collected samples from in March include the Khelo India University Games (Odisha), All India Police Athletics Games (Panchkula), Khelo India Winter Games (Gulmarg and Srinagar) and Olympic shooting trials (New Delhi).
15 samples that were collected from Khelo India Youth Games in January showed traces of prohibited substances which Agarwal said were, ‘roughly the same rate as last year.’ The cases reported are from a number of sports like weightlifting, wrestling, athletics, football, kabaddi, volleyball and boxing.
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