China anti-doping agency to resume testing halted by coronavirus

The World Anti-Doping Agency says anti-doping testing in China is to resume after a temporary suspension because of the deadly coronavirus

The China Anti-Doping Agency will resume testing this week after a temporary suspension due to the coronavirus epidemic, the World Anti-Doping Agency said Friday.

In a statement from its Montreal headquarters, WADA said it had been "closely monitoring" the situation since CHINADA suspended testing in mainland China on February 3.

At the time, the Chinese agency said the move was made out of an abundance of caution "so as not to endanger athletes or test officials" as the country grappled with the deadly outbreak of the virus, known as COVID-19 -- with its epicenter in China's central Hubei province.

WADA said it had been advised by CHINADA that the agency would resume testing in China this week on a phased basis.

With the Tokyo Olympics less than six months away, priority will be given to testing elite level athletes "from higher-risk categories and sports," WADA said.

"The safety of athletes and sample collection personnel involved in the doping control process within China is the key priority," WADA said.

"This needs to be balanced with the importance of ensuring that Chinese athletes remain subject to a rigorous testing program for the duration of the coronavirus situation."

CHINADA has implemented supplementary doping control guidelines designed to minimize the risk of infection for doping control officers.

"CHINADA will gradually expand the testing scope based on the progress of China's epidemic prevention and control while also monitoring the whereabouts of Chinese athletes to maintain the integrity of the doping control system," WADA said.

The agency noted that during the temporary suspension of testing in China, CHINADA continued to plan and carry out testing on Chinese athletes training and competing outside of the country.

In January 2020, CHINADA conducted more than 1,200 tests, including 114 urine samples and 80 blood samples from Chinese athletes training abroad," WADA said.

By the end of February a further 165 urine samples and 113 blood samples are expected to have been collected across seven countries from athletes in nine Olympic sports.

WADA has written to international sports federations and national anti-doping agencies urging them to support efforts to test Chinese athletes training and competing outside their country.

"The anti-doping system allows for cooperation between 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," WADA said.

CHINADA carries out some 15,000 anti-doping tests a year, according to its website.

In 2017 it conducted more than 10,000 tests, the third most by any national agency behind Germany and Britain, according to WADA.

China is a sporting power both in competition and as a host.

It finished third in gold medals and second in total medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and has high hopes for the Tokyo Games, but it has had some doping issues.

Swimmer Sun Yang, a three-time Olympic champion who was suspended for three months in 2014 for doping, is facing a second ban, for destroying his sample with a hammer after a doping control. The Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected to deliver a verdict soon.

- calendar chaos -

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to chaos across Asia's sporting calendar.

All Chinese domestic football has been suspended and events cancelled or postponed include the World Indoor Athletics championships, qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics boxing and women's basketball and cycling's Tour of Hainan.

Snooker, badminton, golf and tennis tournaments have been cancelled along with the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

The outbreak, which began in December, has killed more than 2,200 people and infected more than 75,000 in China.

More than 1,150 people have also been infected and more than a dozen have died across 27 other countries.