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WADA monitoring anti-doping testing gaps as coronavirus locks down entire countries

Anti-Doping Control sign
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The World Anti-Doping Agency says it has continued to advise the varios Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) across the globe to prioritize health and safety as the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, putting entire countries on lockdown. But as the organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games insist that there is "no need to take drastic action" in postponing the Games, WADA is monitoring the anti-doping controls to detect any testing 'gaps'.

The number of Covid-19 illnesses caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 outside of China have now exceeded the number of cases in that country, with China showing nearly 90 per cent of its confirmed cases either having recovered or died and less than 9,000 still suffering from the respiratory illness. In Italy, the country with the second-most cases, only 10 per cent have so far recovered from some 27,000 cases.

It is not known if restrictions on movement are keeping ADOs from collecting anti-doping samples, but people are advised to remain at least two metres apart to prevent the spread of the virus.

"In line with its advisory of 6 March, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintains its advice to Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) worldwide regarding the Agency’s approach for monitoring the integrity of anti-doping testing in light of COVID-19 and stresses the importance of ADOs prioritizing health and safety while protecting the integrity of doping control programs," WADA stated on Monday.

"As the situation develops around the world, WADA continues to assess the situation closely with particular regard to how the pandemic may impact the conduct of anti-doping testing activity worldwide. It is essential that all ADOs 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."

The IOC issued a statement on Tuesday stating, "The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive" and encouraged athletes to continue to prepare as best they can.

Cyclists in Spain have been prohibited from training on the open roads and those in Italy have faced harassment despite being given exceptions to do so, and the cancellation of sporting events worldwide has hampered the Olympic selection process and threatened the integrity of the Games if anti-doping controls cannot be taken.

"WADA will closely monitor testing activity in all regions affected by COVID-19 to detect any possible testing 'gaps' that may need to be addressed," the statement from WADA said. "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."

IOC President Thomas Bach said: “The health and well-being of all those involved in the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is our number-one concern. All measures are being taken to safeguard the safety and interests of athletes, coaches and support teams. We are an Olympic community; we support one another in good times and in difficult times. This Olympic solidarity defines us as a community.”