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

drug testing
Getty Images
1 Comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
Getty
0 Comments

Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
Getty
0 Comments

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!