Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
A trial virtual testing programme launched by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in order to ensure that testing can continue during the Covid-19 pandemic has yet to be verified for official use by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). ‘We welcome the trial of any initiative that can help maintain the program during times of limited testing or, in the longer term, that can further enhance the user-friendliness of the system for athletes and Anti-Doping Organizations without compromising on the integrity, security or legitimacy of the tests’, wrote a WADA spokesperson in an email. ‘To that end, we have initiated communication with USADA to try to gain clarity on the procedures and the process to ensure it complies with the International Standard for Testing and Investigations and World Anti-Doping Code. Unfortunately, we have not received any details and therefore, until WADA evaluates the process, the initiative should remain a trial only.’
USADA has been trialling virtual tests with certain athletes, such as three time Olympic Gold medal swimmer Ryan Murphy (see below). The process takes about 50 minutes.
"The future of drug testing"
During the #COVIDー19 pandemic @usantidoping have asked select athletes to do their own doping tests.@USASwimming 🥇🥇🥇 @ryan_f_murphy took me through the process and also shared his new lockdown fitness exercise – pushing his 4×4 uphill 💪💪 pic.twitter.com/qDlcoFLRFC
— Neil Barker (@Mockneyrebel) April 20, 2020
Travis Tygart, of @usantidoping tells me about a “unique” virtual drug-testing programme trial which is helping fill gap left by a reduction in traditional in-person sample collection amid the coronavirus crisis. Volunteer athletes include @katieledecky @allysonfelix @emmajcoburn pic.twitter.com/5mWNLVfr0T
— Dan Roan (@danroan) April 17, 2020
Testing kits allow athletes to take blood and urine samples, which are returned to USADA via secure post. Doping control officers (DCOs) witness the taking of blood samples using the video services of applications such as Zoom and FaceTime, but not the delivery of urine samples.
This has raised questions as to whether the virtual tests are in compliance with WADA’s International Standard for Testing and Investigations. Annex D.3.2 of the ISTI outlines that the DCO or chaperone ‘has the responsibility for directly witnessing the passing of the urine sample’.
It is understood that a ‘temperature strip’ allows the DCO to ascertain if the urine sample is fresh. However, an obvious concern is that athletes could store ‘clean’ batches of their urine for use in virtual tests. But as USADA’s virtual test also requires the delivery of a blood sample, such a deception may be both difficult to achieve and easy to spot.
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