The fight against doping in sport was greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. With much of the world under quarantine or compulsory social isolation, routine out-of-competition controls were drastically reduced and in some countries they are completely stopped. But in the United States they launched an innovative project to continue to control their athletes in a “virtual” way.
Athletes and leaders defending “clean sport” were concerned. And there was an alert, although from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) they highlighted that those tests Surprise aren’t the only tools they have to catch cheats.
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The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) launched an experimental system that allows athletes to take their own urine and blood samples in their houses, while they are observed remotely (with Zoom or FaceTime) by the agents of the organism.
The pilot program of the call Believe 2020 Project It will last eight weeks in principle and among the dozen figures who accepted the invitation to be part of the tests are the Olympic medalist swimmers Katie Ledecky and Lilly King.
As explained by Travis Tygart, executive director of USADA, in an interview with the newspaper USA TodayThe idea arose when his organization had to cut in half the number of controls it performs on its athletes in times without competition, due to the advance of the pandemic in the country.
The procedure is simple. The tests Anti-doping drugs are sent to the athletes’ houses, who, even with the usual controls, must continue reporting their whereabouts as always. When he receives a surprise call from a USADA officer, the athlete takes his urine and blood samples, under the agent’s virtual supervision, seals them, and then sends them to an accredited laboratory for analysis.
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“I felt very comfortable with the whole process. It is the perfect time to try something like this and it is great considering the circumstances we are in,” said Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion and owner of 15 world titles, after completing the first test Monday in his California department.
The athlete must take the blood sample in front of the camera, so that the control officer can see the whole process. Meanwhile, in the case of urine, you must show the interior of the bathroom where you will collect the sample with a cell phone, tablet or laptop. And while taking the urine, you should place the device outside the bathroom, so that you can control that nobody enters or leaves that room at that time.
The agent will take the time it takes the athlete to rule out any irregularities and the kit For urine collection, record the temperature of the sample to avoid the use of any foreign substance or its alteration.
“Those two factors are strong guarantees against manipulation,” Tygart said. And he explained that they were adopted as alternatives to the usual procedure in which an officer of the same sex as the athlete witnesses how the sample is taken, in response to the obvious concerns about the violation of privacy that can be generated by broadcasting live. on-line The procedure.
“I honestly doubted a little bit about the effectiveness of this process at first. But after doing my first testI think they thought of all the gaps that could be found in the procedure. There are so many factors that you need to coordinate in order to deliver an altered sample, you would have to be a top-level cheat to do so, “said King, a two-time Olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro 2016 and a seven-time world champion.
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Several specialists stressed that in the situation in which most high-performance athletes are currently, without competitions and confined to their homes, without even being able to train naturally, it would be useless – even stupid – to dop.
Similarly, Ledecky supported the idea of continuing to carry out the controls. “I want those who compete against me to know that I am always clean, that I am committed to this and I hope that others are, too,” said the American swimming star, according to the USA Today newspaper.
It seems that his country found a way to assure him that it will.