Drug testing for Singapore athletes to resume in phases

All drug testing for national athletes has been halted temporarily since April 3, when the Government announced the circuit breaker period that kicked in four days later, Anti-Doping Singapore (ADS) has told The Straits Times.

But with the rules easing from next Tuesday, ADS said it would “adopt a phased approach regarding the resumption of doping control activities in accordance to 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 the relevant authorities, ADS will make up for the reduced testing by additional targeted testing, especially for athletes in high-risk sports, which are generally those that require a high level of endurance or combat 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 its 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 were sent testing kits and had to administer blood and urine tests themselves. Five-time Olympic swimming gold medallist Katie Ledecky was among those who volunteered to participate in the programme.

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, there is little concern among Singapore athletes in the testing pools. They still had to provide information on their whereabouts.

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 deters athletes from doing something out of the norm. Once testing resumes, you won’t want to have an anomaly in your data.”

For boxer Hanurdeen Hamid, who was also tested just before the circuit breaker began, his focus is 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 what to prepare for.

“In boxing, you need 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.”

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