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A barge carrying the Olympic Rings passes Rainbow Bridge over Tokyo Bay. Photo: Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images

Olympic athletes were not subject to the usual, rigorous standards of the world anti-doping code during the 16-month period leading to the Games, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Why it matters: For approximately three months during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, virtually all drug-testing programs were suspended, which may have opened the door for athletes to engage in performance-enhancing drug use, AP notes.

  • "Unless you’re a fool, you’d have to be concerned,” Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told AP.

Between the lines: Concerns over the stringency of drug-testing comes as personal bests, national and NCAA records, and world records have been seen across track and field over the past year-plus.

By the numbers: There was a 45% reduction in testing globally in 2020 compared with 2019, a non-Olympic year, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

  • In April and May 2020, WADA reported just 3,203 total tests, compared with 52,365 during those months in 2019.

Yes, but: WADA says testing has returned to full capacity in recent months, with 24,430 tests reported in May and 22,099 in April.

Go deeper

Jul 22, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

What Minnesota's COVID-19 testing contracts might cost taxpayers

IBX's spit test processing facility in Oakdale, Minnesota. Photo: Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via Getty Images

A new investigation is raising questions about Minnesota's COVID-19 testing program, the pricey contracts it awarded to private companies as the pandemic raged and how much of those costs will be passed on to taxpayers.

What's new: APM Reports dug through droves of public records and found that the state "relied on no-bid contracts for companies backed by private equity, regulatory shortcuts, and a complicated payment structure" to get the program off the ground.

Why it matters: The program was expensive, totaling $130 million so far, and the two private companies that secured most of that funding — Vault Health and IBX — faced no competition or public vetting before the contracts were inked.

  • The deals they struck with the state "will eventually pass tens of millions of dollars in testing costs on to the public, either through tax hikes or higher health insurance costs," APM notes.
Jul 22, 2021 - Sports

How the no-spectator Olympics could affect the athletes

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

They’ve endured a delayed Olympic Games, rigorous COVID-19 testing requirements and logistical hurdles. But the next biggest test for Olympians may be competing without anyone in the stands.

Driving the news: Psychologists don't know for sure how a spectator-less Olympics will impact athletes' performance, but Olympians are already expressing concern about what it will be like to compete without hearing the cheers of their families and fans.

Updated Jul 22, 2021 - Health

White House boosts funding for COVID testing in vulnerable communities

A nasal swab COVID-19 test. Photo: Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

The White House announced Thursday that it will invest $1.6 billion to support COVID-19 testing and mitigation efforts in vulnerable communities.

Why it matters: COVID-19 cases are up 55% across the U.S., with some “breakthrough” infections occurring among vaccinated people. However, the rising tide of cases, driven largely by the Delta variant, and hospitalizations are mainly a threat to those who aren’t vaccinated.