WADA Watching For Coronavirus ‘Testing Gaps’ As Health & Safety Priorities Bite Anti-Doping Checks

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is working to detect “any possible testing gaps” in world sport in regions affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as health and safety considerations make the work of testers and the compliance of athletes ever more difficult – and in some cases impossible.

Testing was suspended for the best part of three weeks at the start of Olympic year when the outbreak of coronavirus stated to spears rapidly and the Chinese Government imposed containment measures that closed down sports events, schools, institutions, companies and events involving large crowds. Such lock downs as those seen in Wuhan and Hubei meant an end to anti-doping testing.

While China has resumed tested, efforts remain patchy and do not include areas still under quarantine orders. The same is true in specific regions and aspects of society in Italy and Japan (where schools and universities are in the midst of a 10-day closure). While there are no known cases of swimmers caught up in the crisis, general containment measures, including restrictions on travel, have an impact on the ability of WADA and associates to run testing programs in a way that is usually possible.

Where specific problems are detected, WADA will inform the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other relevant bodies such as the Pre-Tokyo Olympic Games Task Force organising out-of-competition surprises on athletes as the big moment approaches. Said WADA:

“If it is determined that there has been an absence or diminished level of testing on athletes in areas of higher risk, this information will be conveyed on to the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, as well as any other ADO with a major event in the coming months, which would benefit from such information to adjust their testing programs accordingly. This includes the Pre-Tokyo Olympic Games Task Force, which is being led by the International Testing Agency.”

What neither WADA nor the IOC and others want is for the inability of testers to reach athletes to be turned into a “Cheats-Charter” narrative ahead of Tokyo 2020. The Games are scheduled to begin on July 24 but organisers have noted that their contract with the IOC allows the event to be postponed until a date later in the year.

The race to find a corona killer is on. It was confirmed today, meanwhile, that experts in Britain are working on eight possible vaccines against the virus. While they are are optimistic of finding one that will work, they do not expect that to be ready for use, beyond development and clinical trials, inside 12-18 months. Meanwhile, vaccines are also being tested in the United States, where the Senate approved an $8.3 billion corona-response package.

The WADA Statement in Full:

WADA MONITORS INTEGRITY OF ANTI-DOPING TESTING WORLDWIDE IN LIGHT OF THE COVID-19 VIRUS

Today, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) advised Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) worldwide of the Agency’s approach for monitoring the integrity of anti-doping testing in light of the Covid-19 virus; and called on ADOs to prioritize health and safety while protecting the integrity of doping control programs. This follows WADA’s 21 February 2020 announcement concerning testing of Chinese athletes; and, WADA’s 28 February announcement that it was cancelling its Annual Symposium that was to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland.

WADA Director General, Olivier Niggli, said:

“WADA continues to watch the evolving Covid-19 situation closely with particular regard to how the virus may impact the conduct of anti-doping testing activity worldwide. To that end, WADA urges all ADOs to follow the advice of local health authorities to ensure proper protection of athletes and doping control personnel; while, protecting the integrity of doping control programs, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

To support this important balance, WADA will closely monitor testing activity in regions affected by Covid-19 to detect any possible testing ‘gaps’ that may need to be addressed. If it is determined that there has been an absence or diminished level of testing on athletes in areas of higher risk, this information will be conveyed on to the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, as well as any other ADO with a major event in the coming months, which would benefit from such information to adjust their testing programs accordingly. This includes the Pre-Tokyo Olympic Games Task Force, which is being led by the International Testing Agency.

WADA encouraged ADOs to advise the Agency of any amendments that they are making to their testing programs so that WADA can coordinate and assist as necessary.