According to France’s AP news wire (AFP), the Chinese anti-doping agency CHINADA has decided to “temporarily” suspend its testing activities “for the sake of health protection” because of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus epidemic. The announcement was made on Monday by the International Testing Agency (ITA) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Chinese authorities say that cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus have tripled in the last week, with death tolls counting 361 on Sunday – more than the 2002 and 2003 SARS Epidemic. China had 17,205 confirmed infections as of Sunday.
CHINADA will “gradually take up its testing activities as soon as the situation improves,” the nominally independent International Testing Agency (ITA) told the AFP. It added, that CHINADA “confirmed on 3 February 2020 that in the interests of health protection and in view of the international emergency declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), its control activities are temporarily suspended.”
The decision comes six months before the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The ITA clarified that it had “other partners in China and is evaluating whether testing can still take place in the days / weeks to come with other private providers.” The ITA continued, “The situation calls for caution so as not to endanger either the athletes or the testing officials, and while recognizing the importance of anti-doping activities, the priorities are to maintain public health for all.”
Several international sporting events planned in China, including qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Olympics, have already been canceled or moved due to the epidemic. That includes a scheduled stop of the FINA Diving World Series in March that was cancelled by FINA last week.
James Fitzgerald, Senior Manager of Media Relations and Communications at the World Anti-Doping Agency, told SwimSwam:
“We are aware of the situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak and of the China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA’s) decision to suspend its testing program temporarily as a result. We are closely monitoring this situation and we are assisting CHINADA as it implements a plan that will maintain the integrity of the anti-doping program in China.
“The safety of athletes and others involved in the anti-doping process is our key concern. This is not the first time that such an outbreak has occurred (you will remember SARS and, more recently, zika).
“The anti-doping system allows for flexibility and cooperation between Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) – including National Anti-Doping Organizations, International Federations, Major Event Organizations etc. – to ensure that the integrity of the program is upheld and that athletes are still being properly tested, despite the outbreak.
“As ADOs are responsible for testing, it is up to these organizations to ensure that the system is maintained while also operating in line with directives from health, law enforcement and border protection authorities.”
SwimSwam has reached out to FINA and will update this article when we receive further details.