U.S. Anti-Doping Agency applies social distancing to drug testing

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DENVER (AP) The typical day for Noah Lyles now looks something like this:

Drive to park. Unload weights from truck. Sprint on grassy field. Lift. And, every now and then, head home and take a doping test.

The world-champion sprinter is one of 15 American athletes who have volunteered to conduct in-home drug tests on themselves as part of a pilot program being run by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. With anti-doping collections severely curtailed across the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic, USADA is looking at new options, in this case by asking a group of leading Americans to give urine and small dried blood samples at home.

“They asked me to do it, and I wasn’t opposed to doing it,” Lyles said. “It’s a way to get my drug test in.”

Athletes are still required to fill out their whereabouts forms, and under this program, a doping control officer will connect with an athlete via Zoom or FaceTime during a prescribed window.

Athletes receive test kits at home and head into their bathroom to give urine samples while leaving their laptops outside the room. Under normal circumstances, the officer would come to the house (or wherever the athlete was at the time) and stand outside the bathroom. In this case, the officer looks on via the camera while the athletes are timed and their temperatures are monitored to ensure they are giving the samples in real time.

The blood test uses a new technology dry blood sampling in which athletes prick their arms and small droplets of blood funnel into a container. Athletes are then responsible for packaging the samples and sending them back to testing labs.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart says the program gives clean athletes a chance to prove they have remained clean during a time in which anti-doping regulators are having a difficult time reaching the numbers of athletes they normally would. It’s an issue that will make the return to play the Olympics are rescheduled for 2021 but other events are expected to come back sooner that much more difficult to navigate.

“It was going to unnecessarily create a question when those athletes went to Tokyo and won, where people would say, ‘You won but you weren’t tested during the pandemic’,” Tygart said. “How unfair is it for athletes who will be in those circumstances?”

Others taking part in the USADA program include Allyson Felix, Katie Ledecky, Emma Coburn and Sydney McLaughlin.

USADA hasn’t been shy about these sort of test programs in the past. In 2008, it launched a pilot project that involved testing the efficacy of biological passports which allows authorities to track athletes’ blood over time for abnormal changes – the likes of which are in common use today.

Tygart concedes the new system is far from perfect or ideal. In short, it depends on athletes to do the right thing in an industry that has been rife with cheating and manipulation for decades.

“The people who play clean want to be true heroes and role models,” Tygart said. “We also know there are some bad folks out there who will attempt to exploit it. … For the good of the athletes, anti-doping has to reinvent itself in times like these to stay relevant.”

Lyles recalled the days not long ago when he started winning junior competitions and kept waiting for a doping-control officer to show up after the race.

“I kept thinking, ‘When am I going to get my first drug test? I keep winning gold,” he said.

Now, drug tests are part of his routine even if the routine is changing in ways nobody could have imagined a few months ago.

“You do your part to show you’re clean, and you get to the state where it’s, ‘I’m clean, come test me’,” Lyles said.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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