MOSCOW: Russia's anti-doping agency RUSADA will undertake a broad programme to monitor athletes' biological components once a full hiatus in testing linked to coronavirus containment measures across the country ends, its director said on Tuesday.
Moscow and several other regions have declared lockdowns to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, which has so far infected 21,102 people across Russia.
Yuri Ganus, the head of RUSADA, announced last month that the agency was temporarily halting testing, a measure currently in place until the end of the month.
Speaking in an online news conference on Tuesday, Ganus said the agency could not guarantee that athletes would not turn to performance-enhancing substances in the absence of testing.
He stressed that the agency would take the hiatus into account in future testing and focus on Athlete Biological Passports (ABP) designed to monitor different biological components that can reveal the effects of doping over time.
"Our control will not be weakened," he said. "We will come out with a broad retrospective analysis programme... We have a clear understanding of what we will focus on."
Other countries, including Canada, have also temporarily put testing programmes on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ganus could not give an exact date for the resumption of testing, saying it would coincide with the lifting of the restrictions announced by the Russian government to curb contagion.
RUSADA was suspended in 2015 after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.
The agency was conditionally reinstated in September 2018, but was declared non-compliant late last year after WADA found Moscow had provided it with doctored laboratory data.
Russia is in the process of appealing a four-year ban on its athletes competing at major international sporting events under their flag as punishment for that alteration of laboratory data.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Ken Ferris)