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Dirty Games? Testing slowdown during COVID raises questions – California News Times

The sun is shining on the image of the Olympic ring at Yokohama Stadium for the softball tournament of the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Yokohama on Thursday, July 22, 2021. Credits: AP Photo / Matt Slocum

A few came from all over the world and covered almost every distance from the 100 meters to the marathon. The reasons behind all the improvements in athletics sports as a whole were diverse in every respect: better shoe technology, better running surfaces, reduced body wear during the COVID-19 pandemic, and just right. Old-fashioned itching Real running again.

Another possibility: For most of the three months during the pandemic, performance-enhancing drug testing has virtually stopped worldwide. Only in the last few months has it started to return to normal.

It’s one of the unpleasant realities of the Tokyo Olympics. Of the approximately 11,000 athletes who will be competing in the next 17 days, none have been bound by the world’s highest anti-doping laws during the important 16 months leading up to the competition.

Statistics provided by the World Anti-Doping Agency show that the situation is steadily improving as the Olympics approach, but the reality is that overall 2020, tests have decreased by 45% worldwide compared to 2019. Is not obscured. Non-Olympic years when numbers will usually not be that high anyway. In the first quarter of 2021, overall testing was reduced by about 20% compared to the same three months in 2019.

Travis Tigert, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said:

The idea of ​​simply abandoning testing for a period of time goes against one of the core beliefs of anti-doping systems. athlete You can test anytime, anywhere.

The uncertainties and dangers presented by the coronavirus, especially during the first months of the pandemic, not only resulted in the suspension of leagues around the world and ultimately the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics itself, as well as drug testing programs. Designed to enhance the balance of sport’s competitiveness, which has resulted in a de facto outage.

In April and May 2020, WADA reported a total of 3,203 tests, while regular business was shut down in almost every aspect of the world. There were 52,365 during those months of 2019.

USADA was one of the agencies that tried to close the gap, along with the Norwegian and Danish anti-doping agencies. They started a pilot program, sent athletes a home drug test, and asked them to provide a urine sample and a small amount of dry blood sample while the collection agent was looking through the zoom. However, although these programs are notable for their ingenuity, they covered only a small percentage of the world’s few athletes.

“It’s naive to think that no one has tried to use this calm to break anti-doping rules,” WADA Executive Director Oliver Nigri told The Associated Press. “But there are many factors that mitigate that risk.”

Among them, according to Niguri:

— The requirement for athletes to submit their whereabouts was fully valid throughout the pandemic, at least increasing the likelihood of testing, even when it wasn’t done often.

— The most effective doping program is Intensive training Target competition in the field. Many training centers were closed and sporting events were canceled for most of the pandemic.

— Anti-doping systems have other deterrents, such as long-term sample storage, research, and athlete biopassports. All of this can lead to positive results over time.

— Most attention is paid to those who violate anti-doping protocols, but the vast majority of athletes do not violate the rules.

Still, some athletes were familiar with test interruptions and said it was difficult to simply ignore.

“It’s always a concern for athletes,” said Emma Coburn, an American obstacle racer who won the bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro.

There are other concerns besides running.

“I think some of the untrusted countries are probably taking advantage of the time they spent without testing,” said swimmer Lilly King, who spoke openly about the long shadow that doping casts on sports. .. “Personally, I know I’ve been tested more than 20 times in the past year, so I know Americans, especially myself, are well cared for.”

USADA is one of the few anti-doping agencies to list the number of tests given to each athlete, with two Olympic champions in the 400-meter hurdles and USADA Honorary Chairman Edwin Moses, including WADA. One of the people who believe. We need to strive for the same transparency.

“Without transparency in test numbers, we have to ask if these games will be clean, as the IOC promises,” Moses said in an anti-doping testimony to Congress this week.

Independent observers assigned by WADA to review test protocols prior to the 2016 Rio Games found that out of 11,470 participants, 4,125 had no record of being tested before the Olympics, putting 1,913 athletes at greater risk. I discovered that I participated in a high-end sport. Observers wrote that it was a dataset that “emphasizes the (insufficient) suitability of IF and NADO test distribution plans in these sports.”

“You started from a place that was totally unacceptable to athletes at the highest standards, and the badness was only potentially exacerbated by the reduced number of tests with COVID,” Tigert said.

Nonetheless, there are some plausible explanations of the wide range of personal bests, national and NCAA records, and world records that have spread to athletics over the past year or more.

In the possibility spelled in Recent Runners World Story It was an ideal race condition, including a time trial in which the runner runs against time alone to avoid person-to-person contact that could occur in crowded situations.

Skilled shoes for both long-distance runners and sprinters had many controversial benefits. And there was the possible benefit of long stretches of workouts, uninterrupted by the demands of an exercise schedule that required peaks at exactly the right time.

By the time the story was printed in February, there were more than 12 examples of spectacular time created during and around the pandemic. time When the sport shuts down normal operation. This trend continued until spring and continued as the Olympic season approached. This is the time when more athletes are expected to maximize their performance.


Professor of Sport Psychologist: Doping Detection is a Battle of Time


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