Anti-doping statistics raise alarm bells ahead of Tokyo Olympic Games

WADA chief admits the pandemic created 'holes' in testing procedures through 2020, but is looking to close up any leaks in the approach to Tokyo.

Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Recently-released anti-doping numbers have raised concerns for the MPCC, the Movement for Credible Cycling.

A total of 12 anti-doping violations were recorded in the cycling world in 2020. Despite being a lower total than the numbers recorded in 2019, the result “is a great source of worry” for the MPCC given the lower number of tests conducted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Cycling had to deal with a dozen cases (two within World Teams) in 2020, a lower figure than last year at the same time, but still very close to the data of the last five years,” stated the MPCC. “This last observation is a great source of worry for MPCC, given the lower number of tests in 2020.”

Several leading figures in the WorldTour had raised their worries over the slowdown in anti-doping controls this April. With fierce lockdown protocol throughout Europe this spring, surprise testing of athletes took a downturn, leaving many to go untested for several months. This summer, the CADF (Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation) reported a 90 percent drop in out-of-competition tests during the COVID lockdowns.

The MPCC’s statement of warning, released Thursday, comes just one week after the general director of WADA admitted the pandemic had created “holes” in the anti-doping programs of several countries. WADA chief Olivier Niggli told media last week that his organization is redoubling its efforts to close any leaks in its testing programs in the approach to the Tokyo Olympic Games, set for July next year.

The testing body will be under pressure to up its controls through the coming months given the resurgence of coronavirus cases throughout the world.

“We are monitoring the situation. We have to look at the list of athletes who can go to the Games in the coming months and make sure that there are no places in the world where, because of COVID-19, there was a big hole and no tests for a while,” Niggli said last week.

“We are worried to see the resurgence of COVID cases, especially in Europe, but we are still quite far from the deadline [for Olympic testing].”

Niggli added that the possible rollout of a coronavirus vaccine did leave him  “reasonably optimistic” that national anti-doping bodies would be able to shore up any leaks in its testing protocol, and that the aim is for all Olympic athletes to be tested “if possible twice” in advance of Tokyo.

Photo: MPCC

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.