World Athletics president Sebastian Coe warns athletes to be ‘very careful’ amid limited testing

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has warned athletes to be “very careful” amid concerns that some will take advantage of a lack of dope testing over the coming months.

The coronavirus pandemic has led many anti-doping agencies, including Usada in the United States and Ukad in Britain, to either reduce or suspend their testing programmes after social distancing measures came into force.

The head of Usada, Travis Tygart, last week warned that the pandemic would cause a “serious setback to global anti-doping programmes, without a doubt”, saying “there’s no question” some athletes would take advantage of the current environment to take performance-enhancing drugs banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

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But Coe insisted other forms of testing will still go on, and insisted the pandemic had not created a “drug-test-free zone”.

“We are still target testing,” Coe said. “We are still testing – what we what we would call priority testing – amid other missions. They’re doing that now. So I urge the athletes to make sure they are registered for testing, and to remember … they still need to fulfil their whereabouts obligations, which is probably a little easier at the moment for most of them than it has been in the past.

“[Authorities] continue of course to monitor athlete profiles through [biological] passports as well. So yes, there is disruption, but I wouldn’t want athletes to think that, certainly from where we’re sitting, this is a drug-test-free zone.”

Coe added: “The other thing to remember is it’s a slightly old fashioned concept to be simply talking about tests in numbers. That was yesterday. It’s intelligence testing, and intelligence around this is really very important, and that continues. So the message to the athletes is just be very careful. This is not, from where we sit, a test-free area.”

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