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Coronavirus COVID-19: Can athletes still be tested during the pandemic?

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Matthew Astley and Hannah Pike, from Harrison Drury’s sports sector team, provide guidance for athletes who may face anti-doping testing during the coronavirus pandemic

Stringent measures have been put in place all over the world which not only disrupt training schedules and competitions but create career uncertainty for many athletes. Whether just beginning a sporting career, at peak performance or on the cusp of retirement, having to adapt to the social distancing guidance is likely to have a negative impact on an athlete’s wellbeing, or at least present significant challenges.

Athletes may be feeling particularly anxious about the testing involved in regulating anti-doping in their sport. The testing procedure can be stressful, uncomfortable and invasive, so athletes will no doubt be questioning whether they can actually be tested during the public health crisis.

Can I still be tested during the pandemic?

In response to the pandemic, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has had to adjust its daily operations by suspending and reducing doping control programs, including testing. Specific measures during the pandemic may vary across different international sport federations and national anti-doping agencies.

As it stands, athletes can still be tested. To minimise the chance of spreading the virus, only the most critical doping controls will be conducted, and when conducting tests, sample collection personnel must wash their hands regularly and sanitise their hands or put on new gloves upon arriving at the testing location, whilst maintaining the recommended social distance as far as possible.

What if I have symptoms and receive a notification for testing?

If you have symptoms that indicate you may have coronavirus and you receive a notification for testing from your anti-doping organisation, and in any whereabouts submission, you must advise the organisation of the situation so that doping control personnel can then adjust testing plans accordingly.

What if I am self-isolating or in quarantine?

Unless you are in mandatory isolation or lockdown, all athletes are advised to comply with testing (while following preventative measures). If it is morally, hygienically and physically possible to be tested, athletes are advised to comply.

What if I don’t comply?

Any athlete who intentionally refuses to submit to sample collection after notification risks being subject to a period of ineligibility. Refusal or failing to submit a sample will result in the normal results management process, which affords athletes the opportunity to justify their refusal.

Athletes should be mindful that the coronavirus may not be considered a ‘compelling’ justification for the refusal or failure to submit to sample collection.

 

If you are an athlete or athlete support personnel who is unsure what to do in the current circumstances, or to seek specialist legal advice from Harrison Drury’s sports sector team, please contact Matthew Astley on 01772 258321.

Given current social distancing measures, we can provide advice by various means including email, telephone, FaceTime or Skype in order to help you.


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