NADA chief says new mechanism for testing athletes will be put in place post Covid-19 pandemic

National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) chief Navin Agarwal has laid out a strategic plan to curb doping once sporting worldwide hits the restart button.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought sport across globe to a halt, and with it, has paused NADA’s dope collection programme.

Agarwal, however, has chalked out a new mechanism to catch dope offenders post the pandemic, with focus mainly on high-risk doping events and athletes.

“Currently, due to the lockdown, only our online programme is running. Since there is no sporting activity, we are not testing. When the lockdown is over, and competition or training resumes, we will start testing. Our main focus is to cover the high risk players, in events which have high chances of doping,” Agarwal told Mail Today on Thursday.

“We are looking at long-term doping plans rather than short-term ones. Since there are no competitions right now, athletes will not be indulging in short-term doping, so we are looking at substances which will have a long-lasting impact and those used by the high-risk athletes. We will detect who’s done doping or hasn’t.

“Moreover, majority of the athletes are on our biological passport programme, so when we collect samples, we will be checking their history in doping and compare the results,” he added.

The virus outbreak not just affected sportsmen and competitions, but it also had a huge impact on NADA’s planning for the Olympics.

Agarwal admitted, the NADA had list of testing scheduled before the Olympics, which was earlier slated to begin this year.

But with its postponement, the anti-doping body has to work on a new mechanism and make up for lost time.

“This period is crucial for everyone. All our dope collecting officers are also engaged in medical professions, para medicals, so everyone is engaged in some or the other hospital related work.

“In NADA we are more focused on planning on how to detect doping during this period. This year will be different from what we had planned earlier.

“We had plans for the Olympics, which is now moved to next year, but given the circumstances, we have to work out a new play. So, different mechanism of working out of how post Corona era we can test athletes protecting them and our officers. Gaps have occurred due to the circumstances, but we will manage and give the athletes a leveled playing field,” he explained.

One of NADA’s biggest problems this year has been the disaffiliation of the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL). Since testing can no longer be done in India, the national agency has to send samples the world body WADA-accredited labs in Doha or Sweden.

This also means that not only does the NADA have to bear the expenses of sending samples, it also has to wait for months to get the results.

“It is a bit difficult to manage, yes, that we can’t test in NDTL but it’s not impossible. We will have to work out something if the NDTL doesn’t resume soon. We are getting samples tested in WADA-accredited labs overseas and other than logistics, there aren’t much problems we face.

“The expenses are incurred by NADA, so financially it does cost us to a certain extent. We have no programmes to ask the National Sports Federations to bear the expense with us as of now. We are capably handling things,” he concluded.

Agarwal signed off with a message for athletes, asking them to avoid divulging in doping during the lockdown period and focus on training and maintaining fitness.

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