Coronavirus: All drug testing for Singapore athletes stopped since April 3 due to circuit breaker

SINGAPORE – All drug testing for national athletes has been halted temporarily since April 3 due to the circuit breaker measures, Anti-Doping Singapore (ADS) told The Straits Times.

But with the rules easing from June 1, ADS said it would “adopt a phased approach regarding the resumption of doping control activities in accordance to the Government measures”.

Its general manager Derrick Chee added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented situation for the global sports fraternity. As such, the need to prioritise public health supersedes anti-doping efforts for now.

“During this period, ADS notes that the level of training and frequency of competition have been reduced considerably or put on hold, and has adjusted our testing plans accordingly.”

Following the advice of relevant government authorities, ADS will make up for the reduced testing by additional targeted testing, especially for athletes in “high-risk sports”.

ADS, which conducted 304 tests last year, also has past test samples for trend analyses to track signs of doping during the circuit breaker period.

Education remains one of ADS’ key preventive measures as it prepares for a situation in which long-term restrictions limit testing opportunities after the circuit breaker period ends.

In early April, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) began experimenting with remote sample collection. Athletes are sent testing kits and have to administer blood and urine tests themselves.

The tester monitors most of the process live through video call, but the collection of the urine sample is done off camera. The samples are then sent to an accredited lab for testing.

Five-time Olympic swimming gold medallist Katie Ledecky was among the athletes who volunteered to participate in the program.

However, the ADS does not currently have plans to follow suit.

Chee said: “ADS notes that this programme is currently in the experimental stage, and not been approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada). ADS will continue to take reference from Wada’s guidelines concerning the conduct of sample collection procedures.”

While testing has stopped for the past two months, there is little concern among Singapore athletes in the testing pools. They still had to provide information on their whereabouts, which is mandatory under ADS’ anti-doping rules.

National cyclist Luo Yiwei, who was tested in March, said: “These two months don’t make a difference in the long run. ADS also has athlete biological passports, which is a deterrent for athletes to do something out of the norm. Once testing resumes, you won’t want to have an anomaly in your data.”

For national boxer Hanurdeen Ha mid, who was also tested just before the circuit breaker begun, his focus was on restarting his workout sessions.

He said: “My training has been hindered big time. I’m a little lost right now because I’m not sure to prepare for and if there are any competitions this year.

“In boxing, you need to do sparring and if there’s no sparring it’s difficult so I don’t know how long I’m going to take to come back (when training is allowed to resume).”

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