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Athletes warned against doping during COVID-19

BOITUMELO KHUTSAFALO
Spiky matter: The outbreak of coronavirus has seen a reduction in out-of-competition testing PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted on out-of-competition testing of athletes for doping, but officials warn, there is nowhere to hide for offenders.

Africa Zone VI Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (RADO) manager, Andrew Kamanga said while anti-doping testing had not been suspended, restrictions in the movement of people had greatly affected the number of out-of-competition tests.

 “Yes, of course, the restrictions in movement have greatly affected the number of out-of-competition tests. However, the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) is available and is useful in detecting the use of performance-enhancing substances through the haematological and steroidal modules,” Kamanga said.

However, he warns, offenders would be caught.

 “Athletes will eventually be tested, any abnormalities will be detected. The technology and detection methods are also improving, so there is nowhere to hide for those that cheat through doping,” he said.

 Kamanga said, while the number of tests being carried out is significantly lower, testing has not been suspended.

 “All athletes are still subject to testing. It is being done in accordance with the new guidelines given by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). These regulations take into account that there are restrictions on the movement of people for public health reasons,” Kamanga said.

 He said there was also need to ensure the health and safety of athletes and sample collection personnel.

 “Various precautions will therefore need to be taken during the sample collection process. We are encouraging sports authorities to use social media and other technologies to reach out to athletes during this era of COVID-19 restrictions to disseminate relevant

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anti-doping information and education,” he said.

 Botswana National Olympic Committee programmes officer, Ntebogang Khubamang said there was not much that could be done under the prevailing circumstances.

 “As you may know, WADA has put hold of its accredited labs from testing in prevention of COVID-19. It is a situation we are all faced with due to the coronavirus. It is lockdown worldwide, not only in Botswana thus our DCO (Doping Control Officers), like any other non-essential service, are not allowed to travel. Unfortunately, there is no monitoring whatsoever in place to cater for the out-of-competition (testing),” she said.

 She said as BNOC, they try to educate athletes through seminars over the internet (webinars) developed by the World Anti-Doping Agency to keep them in the loop, on what is going on in relation to doping control.

 “But you should remember that it is the athlete’s responsibility in all fields of doping control, to be compliant,” Khubamang said.

Moses Moruisi, Botswana’s representative at RADO, conceded, it was difficult to conduct tests during the lockdown.

 “As you would know, it is not practical to do tests during this period. Collection as well as sending the samples to the accredited labs is not possible. Testing will resume after lockdown. We believe enough doping education has taken place, and therefore nobody will take any banned substance for enhancing performance,” Moruisi said.

 



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