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Lack of testing raises questions for high rates of success among Olympic athletes

As the Olympics in Tokyo this year bring in lower numbers for every type of sport, people are asking why that is.

While there are things like better shoe technologies, running surfaces, and well rested bodies from the pandemic, it begs the question: were Olympians taking drugs to enhance their performance when the pandemic halted regular testing?

There are around 11,000 athletes in the competition this year, and because of the pandemic they have not been held to the high standards that prior Olympic competitors were.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said the situation has approved with the event approaching, but 2020 saw a 45% decrease in testing compared to 2019.

Before the pandemic, athletes knew they could be tested anywhere at any time, and with the quarantine, most knew they probably wouldn’t be.

April and May of 2020 had a total of 3,203 tests conducted, and the same months in 2019 has 52,365 tests conducted.

Some countries had pilot programs with at-home urine or dried blood testing kits with collection agents watching on Zoom, but this covered a very small portion of athletes in Norway and Denmark.

While this is a cause of concern for some countries, WADA director general Oliver Niggli says there are factors that lower the risk. One is that while quarantine was happening, athletes were still required to let WADA know their whereabouts at all times and were aware that testing could still possibly happen as a result of this.

A second factor is that most of the time when these drugs are being used, it’s at trainings and competitions, and most training centers and sporting events were closed and canceled amid the pandemic.

While athletes may not come up positive for the drugs right away, there are things like long-term sample storage and investigations into athlete biological passports that would lead to the truth coming out eventually.

Finally, though there are athletes who violate these protocols and gain the most attention from WADA, most athletes simply don’t violate the rules.

Swimming Lilly King expressed her concern for countries that have not been as trusted taking advantage of the lack of testing, saying that America held their athletes to a higher standard last year.

Edwin Moses, chairman is USADA, explained that the anti-doping agency keeps track of all tests given to each individual athlete, and that he thinks WADA should do the same thing.

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