“The accepted global gold standard is observed collection of blood and urine, out of competition, and that isn’t changing,” said Tygart, who said he had been in contact with his organization’s counterparts in Germany and Norway about developing similar programs for their athletes.
A spokesman for the World Anti-Doping Agency said the organization was not aware of the program.
Lyles, an American sprinter, was among the first athletes to have a virtual test. He said it took roughly 90 minutes. He is 22, has been getting tested for five years, and the only difference this time, he said, was “having to do everything myself.”
On the whole, he said he preferred the usual testing method. “I personally like someone being there, because it makes you accountable,” said Lyles, who has been running on a soccer field at a park near his home in Florida because all the tracks are closed.
Tuliamuk, who won the Olympic Trials Marathon in February, said the virtual test was easy, but she questions whether it can ultimately be used in countries such as Kenya, where she was born. Internet service isn’t always readily available there, and athletes might not be as familiar with the technology.
“I’m super educated,” Tuliamuk said. “I’m not sure it will be as easy for others.”
The long-term advantages of virtual testing may ultimately override any worries. If antidoping agencies and international sports federations don’t have to fly agents all over the world to collect blood and urine samples from athletes, the savings would be significant and allow more athletes to be tested more often.
“I’ve competed against athletes who doped, and it’s had a huge impact on my career and the careers of my friends,” said Coburn, a world champion in the steeplechase. “Anything we can do to make testing more available is a worthwhile endeavor.”