Dope Control Officers, who are front-line medical workers in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, will not be sent for sample collection when training of athletes resumes following lockdown relaxation, National Anti-Doping Agency's Director General Navin Agarwal told PTI on Monday.
NADA is gearing up for vigorous resumption of sample collection and testing after the home ministry allowed sports complexes and stadia to open but without spectators. Agarwal said elaborate guidelines have been prepared and the body is now waiting for sports ministry's green light to start sample collection.
"We are requesting sports ministry to give us the list of centres where sporting activities are resuming. I understand that there are states where activities are resuming particularly with regards to non-contact sports," Agarwal told PTI during an interaction. "Yes, NADA won't be using any of their DCOs who have been frontline workers in recent times as they might have been working in hospitals and require to self-quarantine themselves," he added.
Most of the NADA DCOs are medical and para-medical staff working at government hospitals. Also, for the time being, only urine samples will be collected to test athletes who are in the Registered Testing Pool (RTP) and have qualified for next year's Tokyo Olympics. The athletes in the RTP are elite competitors who are required to share their whereabouts with the anti-doping agency. "As of now, no blood samples will be collected because transportation will be difficult in the current scenario. Blood samples require to be transported fast or else they get hemolyzed," the DG informed.
Hemolysis is the rupturing of red blood cells. On Monday, Agarwal and top NADA officials had a video conference with DCOs across the country to discuss modalities. "There is a whole set of guidelines as to which DCO can be permitted and which DCO can't be permitted to go for sample collection. Because many of our DCOs are already in the health sector as frontline workers -- doctors and para medics," he explained.
Agarwal confirmed that no frontline workers will be used as DCOs for now. "Obviously, the symptomatic people will also not go. Also those working at COVID centers won't be testing athletes. Depending on their exposure, these things will be taken into account," he said.
Agarwal also said "man power is not a problem" since competitions are not taking place, which means that there won't be too many tests.
"Right now, we are looking at probably sending people to Bengaluru or Patiala," he said.
Also apart from camps, focus will be on testing athletes in the RTP. "(We will test) those who have already qualified or those who are Olympic probable provided we get approval from sports ministry," he said. All the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be provided by NADA and the kind of kit used may vary depending on zones.
"Our set of guidelines will specify where they (DCOs) need to wear only masks and gloves and where all they have to wear PPE suit or face shield. "The protective equipment could be different for different zones. The standard distance from athletes will be two yards," he revealed.