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Anti-doping testers look for ways to fight cheating amid COVID-19 outbreak

World Anti-Doping Agency Director General Olivier Niggli said his agency would "keep a close eye on developments" related to testing for performance-enhancing drugs and the coronavirus outbreak.
(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)

Though the coronavirus outbreak has shut down sports worldwide, it has potentially opened the door for cheaters to use performance-enhancing drugs without fear of getting caught.

Amid concern about close contact between athletes and testers, many countries have significantly curtailed their monitoring programs. This week, the World Anti-Doping Agency released a question-and-answer document, insisting it will search for ways to address the issue.

“WADA is conscious of the fact that the amount of testing activity will vary globally given the regional differences in terms of public health restrictions,” Director General Olivier Niggli said. “Therefore the agency will keep a close eye on developments.”

The U.S. and Britain are among many countries where anti-doping authorities acknowledged a reduction in testing because of COVID-19 restrictions.

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Athletes have also expressed concern about suspended cheaters who would have missed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but will regain eligibility in time for the postponed Summer Games in 2021.

Elite competitors face a different reality today since the pandemic upended their training and competition schedules for the Summer Games in Tokyo.

WADA announced the creation of a strategic testing group to find adjustments in monitoring and enforcement. With some countries emerging from lockdown, the agency is hoping to make up for lost time.

“When the sporting landscape returns to a certain normality, these ‘gaps’ in testing will be addressed cooperatively through additional targeted testing especially given that intelligence-gathering and investigations continue,” the agency said in a statement.


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