U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

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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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Alberto Salazar, track coach and marathon champion, gets four-year doping ban

Alberto Salazar
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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Renowned track coach Alberto Salazar, who trained four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah, along with a gold medalist and other top contenders at this week’s world championships, has been kicked out of the competition after being handed a four-year ban in a case long pursued by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

USADA said in a news release early Tuesday that an arbitration panel decided on the four-year penalty for Salazar and endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown for, among other violations, possessing and trafficking testosterone while training top runners at the Nike Oregon Project (NOP).

Brown did consulting work for the NOP and was a personal physician for some of the runners.

Among the seven runners listed as members of Salazar’s team are Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, who won the 10,000m on Saturday night, and is entered to run later this week in the 1500m; and Donavan Brazier and Clayton Murphy of the U.S., each scheduled to run the 800m final Tuesday.

The USADA ban went into effect Monday, and track’s governing body, the IAAF, moved quickly to revoke Salazar’s credential for the final six days in Doha. The Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees anti-doping in track, was preparing to notify the Salazar athletes that they could not associate with their coach because of his ban.

In a statement released by NOP, Salazar said he was shocked by the arbitration outcome, and that he would appeal. He said throughout a six-year investigation, he and his athletes “endured unjust, unethical and highly damaging treatment from the USADA.”

“The Oregon Project has never and will never permit doping,” Salazar said.

Hassan released a statement saying she was aware of the USADA investigation when she joined Salazar’s team “and have always had a clean conscience, knowing we are being monitored to the absolute fullest by USADA and” the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“I am saddened by the timing of USADA as it brings my championship out of balance,” she said.

The existence of the long-running USADA investigation became public after a 2015 report by BBC and ProPublica that detailed some of Salazar’s practices, which included use of testosterone gel and infusions of a supplement called L-carnitine that, when mixed with insulin, can greatly enhance athletic performance.

Distance runner Kara Goucher and a former NOP coach, Steve Magness, were among the witnesses who provided evidence for the case. USADA said it received information from 30 witnesses. Goucher left NOP in 2011, and in the ProPublica piece, she called Salazar a “sort of a win-at-all-costs person and it’s hurting the sport.”

Farah, who runs for Britain, worked with the Nike Oregon Project while he was racking up six world and four Olympic titles. During that period, UK Athletics did its own investigation into Salazar and gave Farah the OK to continue working with him. Farah parted ways with Salazar in 2017, saying he wanted to move back home.

On Tuesday, Farah released a statement saying he has “no tolerance for anyone who breaks the rules or crosses a line.”

Salazar also coached two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp of the U.S., who in the past has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

The 61-year-old Cuban born coach was a college star at Oregon, who went on to win four major marathon titles, in New York and Boston, from 1980-82.

USADA’s dogged pursuit of him in a difficult case that never directly implicated any of his athletes was a reminder of how track’s doping issues stretch well beyond the Russian scandal that has overtaken the sport over the last several years. The other four Salazar athletes in Doha this week are from Ethiopia (Yomif Kejelcha), Germany (Konstanze Klosterhalfen) and the United States (Jessica Hull and Craig Engels).

USADA said it relied on more than 2,000 exhibits between the two cases and that proceedings included nearly 5,800 pages of transcripts.

“The athletes in these cases found the courage to speak out and ultimately exposed the truth,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “While acting in connection with the Nike Oregon Project, Mr. Salazar and Dr. Brown demonstrated that winning was more important than the health and wellbeing of the athletes they were sworn to protect.”

MORE: Top 400m runner forced to 200m at worlds due to testosterone rule

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Christian Coleman expects to be cleared in doping whereabouts case

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U.S. sprinter Christian Coleman, whose time of 9.81 seconds in the 100m is the fastest in the world this year, released a statement Saturday denying reports that he has missed three doping tests in 12 months, a “whereabouts” violation that could result in a two-year ban.

“I’m not a guy who takes any supplements at all, so I’m never concerned about taking drug tests, at any time,” Coleman said. “What has been widely reported concerning filing violations is simply not true. I am confident the upcoming hearing on September 4th will clear the matter and I will compete at World Championships in Doha this fall. Sometime after the hearing, I will be free to answer questions about the matter, but for now I must reserve and respect the process.”

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency records show the agency has tested Coleman 11 times through Aug. 20. The agency requires elite athletes to give “whereabouts,” a few details on where they expect to be each day, so that they may take out-of-competition tests.

USADA confirmed Saturday that Coleman has been charged with a “potential anti-doping rule violation for failing to properly disclose his whereabouts information.”

The agency said it initiated two of the test attempts, while another was initiated by the Athletics Integrity Unit, founded by the IAAF in 2017. The AIU has pronounced itself independent from the IAAF.

Coleman will have a hearing with the American Arbitration Association/North American Court of Arbitration for Sport on Sept. 4, as alluded to in the Coleman statement and confirmed by USADA.

The 23-year-old sprinter would be the heavy favorite in the world championships, following up his silver medal between Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt in 2017, two months after he won the NCAA title. He is one of only eight athletes to break the 9.8-second mark in the 100m, and he posted the world’s best time in 2017 and 2018.

READ: Gatlin and Coleman beat Bolt in Jamaican star’s farewell championship

Since a loss to Noah Lyles in Shanghai in May, a race in which both Americans posted a time of 9.86, Coleman has won all three events he has entered — the Bislett Games in June, the Prefontaine Classic later in June, and the USATF Championships in July.

He withdrew from last week’s Diamond League meet in Birmingham.

The world championships start Sept. 27 in Doha.

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