WADA issues dope testing guidelines amid coronavirus outbreak

New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has issued fresh dope testing guidelines in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed over 11,000 lives across the world.

After a teleconference meeting of the WADA NADO Advisory Group on Friday, the organisation has urged Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) to act in accordance with restrictions placed by local health authorities “to ensure proper protection of athletes and doping control personnel, while protecting the integrity of doping control programs, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic”.

In its latest guidelines, WADA has advised ADOs to make sure that sample collectors are free from any symptoms of illness. WADA said collectors should also ask athletes if they have any symptoms or if they or anyone at the collection site are in the groups thought to be at heightened risk from COVID-19.

If test collection personnel are found to have contracted the virus, athletes they tested should be informed and vice versa, WADA said.

Protective wear such as masks should be used and work surfaces disinfected, and if local conditions limit what testing can occur then ADOs should “consider focusing their testing program on targeted athletes from high risk sports and disciplines,” WADA said.

The guidelines also noted that ADOs should continue to collect whereabouts from athletes to monitor their movements during the pandemic as it can be useful information and intelligence, including if the athlete is travelling or training abroad (then the athlete could potentially be tested abroad by either a NADO or their IF).

The guidelines also advise ADOs, if testing program can continue, need to put enhanced measures in place, consistent with the recommendations from health care authorities, to protect the health and safety of the sample collection personnel, the athletes and anyone else involved in the process.

WADA President Witold Banka said: “The sports world is dealing with an unprecedented situation. COVID-19 has forced all anti-doping stakeholders, including WADA, to adjust the way daily operations are conducted. But this matter goes way beyond anti-doping and sport – it is a global emergency – and our first priority must be public health, safety and social responsibility.”

WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said: “WADA has developed this guidance in collaboration with, and with the support of ADOs and other key stakeholders, understanding that these are difficult times for sport. ADOs must, in the first instance, follow the directives and advice of their respective governments and health authorities in order to play their part in preventing the further spread of the virus. Athletes and everyone else involved in the anti-doping system can be assured that their health is our number-one concern.

“Athletes should also bear in mind that testing will continue only where appropriate and possible and, at this time, with the necessary health and hygiene protocols in place. The situation is changing every day.”

WADA said it will continue to publish updates regarding its response to coronavirus outbreak as the situation evolves.

IANS

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