Coronavirus Outbreak: US anti-doping agency conducts in-home tests during lockdown

With anti-doping collections severely curtailed across the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic, USADA is asking a group of leading athletes to give urine and small dried blood samples at home

The Associated Press April 15, 2020 16:37:04 IST
Coronavirus Outbreak: US anti-doping agency conducts in-home tests during lockdown

Denver: The typical day for Noah Lyles now looks something like this:

Drive to the park. Unload weights from the truck. Sprint on the grassy field. Lift. And, every now and then, head home and take a doping test.

Coronavirus Outbreak US antidoping agency conducts inhome tests during lockdown

Noah Lyles of the United States reacts after winning the men's 4x100 meter relay final during the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. AP

The world-champion sprinter is one of 15 American athletes who have volunteered to conduct in-home drug tests on themselves as part of a pilot program being run by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). With anti-doping collections severely curtailed across the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic, USADA is looking at new options, in this case by asking a group of leading Americans to give urine and small dried blood samples at home.

“They asked me to do it, and I wasn't opposed to doing it,” Lyles said. “It's a way to get my drug test in.”

Athletes are still required to fill out their whereabouts forms, and under this program, a doping control officer will connect with an athlete via Zoom or FaceTime during a prescribed window.

Athletes receive test kits at home and head into their bathroom to give urine samples while leaving their laptops outside the room. Under normal circumstances, the officer would come to the house (or wherever the athlete was at the time) and stand outside the bathroom. In this case, the officer looks on via the camera while the athletes are timed and their temperatures are monitored to ensure they are giving the samples in real-time.

The blood test uses a new technology — dry blood sampling — in which athletes prick their arms and small droplets of blood funnel into a container. Athletes are then responsible for packaging the samples and sending them back to testing labs.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart says the program gives clean athletes a chance to prove they have remained clean during a time in which anti-doping regulators are having a difficult time reaching the numbers of athletes they normally would. It's an issue that will make the return to play — the Olympics are rescheduled for 2021 but other events are expected to come back sooner — that much more difficult to navigate.

“It was going to unnecessarily create a question when those athletes went to Tokyo and won, where people would say, ‘You won but you weren’t tested,' during the pandemic," Tygart said. “How unfair is it for athletes who will be in those circumstances?”

Others taking part in the USADA program include Allyson Felix, Katie Ledecky, Emma Coburn and Sydney McLaughlin.

USADA hasn't been shy about these sort of test programs in the past. In 2008, it launched a pilot project that involved testing the efficacy of biological passports — which allows authorities to track athletes' blood over time for abnormal changes — the likes of which are in common use today.

Tygart concedes the new system is far from perfect or ideal. In short, it depends on athletes to do the right thing in an industry that has been rife with cheating and manipulation for decades.

“The people who play clean want to be true heroes and role models,” Tygart said. “We also know there are some bad folks out there who will attempt to exploit it. ... For the good of the athletes, anti-doping has to reinvent itself in times like these to stay relevant.”

Lyles recalled the days not long ago when he started winning junior competitions and kept waiting for a doping-control officer to show up after the race.

“I kept thinking, when am I going to get my first drug test, I keep winning gold?” he said.

Now, drug tests are part of his routine — even if the routine is changing in ways nobody could have imagined a few months ago.

“You do your part to show you’re clean, and you get to the state where it’s, ‘I’m clean, come test me,'” Lyles said.

Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak

Updated Date:

also read

‘Don’t like to get beaten’: Sprinter Amlan Borgohain reveals why he idolises Cristiano Ronaldo
Sports

‘Don’t like to get beaten’: Sprinter Amlan Borgohain reveals why he idolises Cristiano Ronaldo

‘India’s fastest man’ Amlan Borgohain, in an exclusive conversation with Firstpost.com, talks about his national records, journey as a sprinter, why he idolises Cristiano Ronaldo and the road ahead.

Indian footballer Ashutosh Mehta banned for two years for dope offence
Football

Indian footballer Ashutosh Mehta banned for two years for dope offence

Ashutosh Mehta tested positive for a banned substance after his samples were collected by National Anti-doping Agency while playing for ATK Mohun Bagan during Indian Super League last season. The football can appeal against the dope offence.

LaLiga: Ernesto Valverde hails players after Athletic Bilbao thrash Almeria
Football

LaLiga: Ernesto Valverde hails players after Athletic Bilbao thrash Almeria

Athletic Bilbao are on 16 points, level with Barcelona, who are second and face Real Mallorca on Saturday night.