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