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WADA highlights serious failings in Rio Olympics drug testing numbers

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MONTREAL (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency has detailed serious failings of doping control management at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, saying the system was only saved from collapsing by the “enormous resourcefulness and goodwill” of some key staff.

In a 55-page report from its Independent Observer team led by British lawyer Jonathan Taylor, WADA said the logistical issues which put a strain on the testing process were “foreseeable and entirely avoidable” during the games in August.

The report blamed a lack of coordination, budget cutbacks, tension between the local organizing committee and Brazil’s anti-doping agency, and inadequate training for the problems that included days at the Athletes’ Village when only half of the planned out-of-competition samples could be collected.

“The aggregate effect was to strain the basic sample collection process at competition venues and in the Athletes’ Village close to breaking point, with many discrepancies observed in the sample collection procedure,” the report said. “Ultimately, it was only due to the enormous resourcefulness and goodwill of some key doping control personnel working at the Games that the process did not break down entirely.

“Due to their initiative, tenacity and professionalism in the face of great difficulties, the many problems identified above were patched over and sample collection was conducted in a manner that ensured the identity and integrity of the samples.”

Doping was heavily in the spotlight in the months leading up to the Rio Games, with allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia leading to sanctions against some Russian athletes and the retesting of 840 samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics barring dozens of other athletes from competing in Brazil.

WADA said the role of its Independent Observer Team is to help instill confidence in athletes and the public as to the quality, effectiveness and reliability of the anti-doping program for the Olympics, and to make recommendations for improvements.

Many of the recommendations related to training and treatment of volunteers, proper attention to rosters and protocol, more lead-time for doping control officers in the venues and better logistics and equipment to locate athletes for out-of-competition testing.

“Ultimately, many athletes targeted for testing in the Athletes’ Village simply could not be found and the mission had to be aborted,” the report said. “On some days, up to 50 per cent of planned target tests were aborted in this way.”

Poor planning, transport issues and a lack of catering for chaperones resulted in a higher-than-expected rates of absences, adding to the burden on doping control officers and other delegates.

A total of 3,237 athletes from 137 countries were tested during the games, representing 28.6 percent of the 11,303 athletes who participated. Of those, 2,611 — or 23.1 percent — were tested once, 527 were tested twice, 81 were tested three times and one was tested six times.

Some problems outlined by WADA’s observers:

— There were almost 500 fewer tests conducted than organizers had planned during the games. The samples taken included 4,037 urine tests, 411 blood tests and 434 blood plus ABP or ABP blood tests for a total of 4,882, significantly short of the 5,380 targeted.

— Data entry errors led to nearly 100 samples analyzed by the anti-doping laboratory not being matched to an athlete. WADA said about 40 percent of those were because of the recording of an incorrect bottle code in the computer system, but noted that Rio 2016 assisted the IOC in correcting the errors so the samples could be matched to athletes and their testing histories could be updated.

— The expected daily maximum of 350 urine samples was never reached during the games. The highest daily total was 307 on Aug. 11, but on the majority of days, fewer than 200 urine samples were received.

— There was no out-of-competition testing conducted in soccer, and “little or no in-competition blood testing” in some high risk-sports, including weightlifting.

— Blood testing sections were underutilized, with some shifts at the laboratory having no blood samples to analyze at the beginning of the games.

“As a result … full analytical capacity was not exploited, which is disappointing, given that the latest equipment and best experts in the world were available,” the report said.

On a positive note, WADA commended the International Olympic Committee for embracing new advances in the fight against doping, including the creation of the Pre-Games Intelligence Taskforce, which reported on July 24 that 4,125 of the 11,470 athletes on the entrants list for the Games had no record of any testing in 2016, including 1,913 from sports identified as higher risk.

WADA also said the Brazilian anti-doping laboratory was “superbly equipped” and “operated very securely and generally very efficiently, and now represents an outstanding legacy from the Games for the anti-doping movement in South America.”

MORE: Six of top seven from Olympic event positive in doping retests

USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

“We are confident that they [potential replacement players] would choose not to play,” the U.S. players said in a statement.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

“We ask that they approve the original agreement that, the players believed, was acceptable to both parties after Monday’s meeting,” the players said in a statement. “Unless there is an agreement, the players remain resolved to bypass the defense of the world championship.”

Neither side has said when the next meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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MORE: NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set