LOS ANGELES • The United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) has come up with a novel random testing programme to cope with the unique circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the country, like most of the world, under lockdown as authorities try to slow the spread of Covid-19, the body has launched a programme in which athletes collect blood and urine samples from themselves at home, while being monitored remotely on Zoom or FaceTime by testing personnel.
The test kits are sent to athletes, who must produce samples when they receive an unannounced call from a doping control officer.
The officer will watch as the blood sample is being taken, but urine samples will be provided in private.
The samples will then be sealed under the eye of the official and sent to an accredited lab for testing.
Usada chief executive Travis Tygart told the New York Times that plenty of top US Olympic hopefuls were eager to sign up for the pilot project.
Multiple Olympic and world champion swimmer Katie Ledecky, track stars Allyson Felix and Noah Lyles were among those who volunteered.
“We’ve been talking about this and laying the foundation for several months,” Tygart said. “Covid-19 put that on fast-forward and allowed us to roll it out.”
Ledecky said she “felt very comfortable” administering her first self test this week at her home in California.
Usada has built safeguards into the system to limit opportunities for cheating.
Although athletes will not be observed during the collection of urine samples, they have to show the monitoring officer the toilet that will be used.
They will also be timed, while the temperature of the sample will be recorded to lessen the chances of sample tampering or sample substitution.