March 17, 2020 / 8:38 PM / 23 days ago

Britain reduces doping tests in light of coronavirus

Nicole Sapstead, Chief Executive Officer at the United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) attends the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) Symposium in Ecublens, near Lausanne, Switzerland, March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

LONDON (Reuters) - UK Anti-Doping announced a significant reduction in its testing programme on Tuesday as the country’s elite sport faced a complete shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are acutely aware of the effect that the COVID-19 virus is having on society, sport and the wider sporting community, both here in the UK and globally,” UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said in a statement.

“With the cancellation of sporting events and recent UK Government advice concerning the control of the virus, we have reviewed our operational activity and are announcing a significant reduction in our testing programme.”

The move comes only four months before the Tokyo Olympics, which organisers insist will go ahead despite the deadly health crisis gripping the world and decimating the sporting calendar.

“This is a difficult decision and one that has not been taken lightly,” Sapstead said.

“As an organisation our ongoing responsibility remains to protect clean sport, but we must give precedence to health and welfare and act responsibly in line with government advice during this unprecedented time.”

As well as actual testing, UKAD said it would continue to “process intelligence” and will act on information.

Despite the current situation in the country, which recorded its 71st death from the pandemic on Tuesday, British athletes, even those self-isolating, will still be required to submit their whereabouts.

Where testing takes places, UKAD said “maximum” precautions would be implemented to protect both the athlete and the doping control officer, including wearing personal protective equipment and remaining six feet apart.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis

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