Wapakoneta Daily News

Dirty Games? Testing slowdown raises questions


TOKYO — The low numbers came in from across the globe and covered most

every distance, from 100 meters through the marathon. The reasons behind

all the improving times throughout the sport of track and field were every

bit as diverse: better shoe technology, better running

surfaces, less wear and tear on bodies during the COVID-19 pandemic and just a good old-fashioned itch to start running for real again.

Another possibilit­y: For the better part of three

months during the pandemic, testing for performanc­e-enhancing drugs came to a virtual standstill worldwide. Only in recent

months has it begun to ramp back to normal.

It’s one of the uncomforta­ble realities of the Tokyo Olympics. Not a single one

of the approximat­ely 11,000 athletes competing over the next 17 days has been

held to the highest standards of the world antidoping code over the critical 16-month period leading into the Games.

Statistics provided by the World Anti-doping Agency pointed to a steadily improving situation as the

Olympics approached, but they do not mask the reality that over the entirety of 2020, there was a 45% reduction in testing around the world compared with 2019 — a non-olympic year

in which the numbers wouldn’t normally be as

high anyway. In the first quarter of 2021, there was roughly a 20% reduction in

overall testing compared with the same three months of 2019.

“Unless you’re a fool, you’d have to be concerned,”

said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-doping Agency.

The thought of simply abandoning testing for any

period of time runs counter to one of the central tenets

of the anti-doping system — the prospect that any

athlete can be tested anywhere and at any time.

The uncertaint­ies and danger presented by the

coronaviru­s, especially during the opening months of the pandemic, resulted

not only in the suspension­s of leagues across the world and eventually the postponeme­nt of the Tokyo

Olympics themselves.

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