UKAD to scale back drug testing in wake of coronavirus crisis

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UK Anti-Doping has been forced to take the “difficult decision” to scale back drug testing in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said there would be a “significant reduction” in testing in order to ensure the well-being of athletes and its own staff.

Sapstead said in a statement: “With the cancellation of sporting events and recent UK Government advice concerning the control of the virus, we have reviewed our operational activity and are announcing a significant reduction in our testing programme.

“This is a difficult decision and one that has not been taken lightly. Our priority is the health and welfare of athletes, and our own staff and doping control officers.

“As an organisation our ongoing responsibility remains to protect clean sport, but we must give precedence to health and welfare and act responsibly in line with government advice during this unprecedented time.

“We will continue to process intelligence and will act on that information. If anyone has information that could be of interest to UKAD and its investigations on any matter, please do contact us as usual.”

UKAD said that, where testing did take place, all available precautions would be used to protect the athlete and the coping control officer (DCO).

The DCO will wear personal protective equipment and maintain a 6ft distance from the athlete, while DCO selection will be in line with Government advice and consider recent travel history and high-risk criteria.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency has also had to make changes to its testing programme, saying it would now focus only on “mission-critical testing of athletes in sports still competing, and as absolutely needed for those preparing for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games to ensure their rights are upheld and their reputations protected”.

It said in a statement: “At USADA, we are here to protect athletes and ensure their right to compete on a healthy, clean and fair playing field. We are equally committed to protecting the health and well-being of athletes and sample collection personnel.

“We understand we are operating in an uncertain time and our experts are closely following the advice and best practices of national and local health authorities.

“In line with these interests, we are taking a rational and adaptable approach to ensure the continuation of our essential mission in a safe and healthy way.”

Like its UK counterpart, USADA also announced protection for DCOs and athletes.

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