Cuban doping control center tests Latin American athletes ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Cuba’s Anti-doping Laboratory, the Sports Medicine Institute, continue collecting urine and blood samples from Latin American athletes with almost five months to go for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021.

The island nation, along with the United States, Canada and Brazil, runs one of the five laboratories accredited by the World Anti-doping Agency in the Americas.

Rodny Montes de Oca, director of the Cuban anti-doping lab, told Xinhua they offer services to 12 Latin American nations, helping detect and deter athletes from using performance-enhancing drugs during sports competitions.

“Now, we are testing international and local athletes, including those already qualified for the Olympics,” he said. “We do not support foul play, but fraternity, brotherhood and fair competition instead.”

At present, some 100 samples from Cuban athletes are being analyzed at the country’s anti-doping laboratory, which was founded in 2001.

In addition, another 500 samples sent by international sports federations from Peru, Mexico, and Bolivia are being checked by about 20 chemists, pharmacists and biochemists working at the institute.

Until now, track and field, soccer, cycling, wrestling and boxing are the sports with the largest number of doping tests conducted, according to the science center’s authorities.

Margarita Correa, senior advisor at the doping control center, said they are protecting the health of athletes while contributing to maintaining the integrity of sports.

“We must keep updated about the use of drugs in sports,” she said. “What we are doing here is highly important to avoid unfair sports competitions.”

In 2020, as most international sports events were canceled and doping tests, subsequently, dropped sharply due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuban laboratory examined less than 2,000 samples.

While the Tokyo Olympic Games near and sports federations resume competitions, the island nation aims to increase the volume of tests carried out, surpassing 7,000 samples by the end of the year.

Ariadna McPherson, who majored in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Havana, conducts doping control sample analyses at the Cuban laboratory.

“The use of drugs by athletes also raises ethical issues,” she said. “After a very stressful period provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world deserves doping-free Summer and Winter Olympics.”

The Caribbean nation plans to send nearly 80 athletes to compete at the postponed Tokyo Olympics, 41 of whom are already qualified.

Cuba expects to win nearly 20 medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games with major opportunities in track and field, boxing, judo, and wrestling.

Its best performance took place at the Barcelona 1992 Games where the island nation placed fifth in the overall medal count.