Athletics-New Zealand given 'please explain' letter after drop in drug tests

(Reuters) - World Athletics' anti-doping watchdog has written to New Zealand's athletics federation seeking an explanation for insufficient drug testing on its athletes last year.

Athletics New Zealand said it had received a letter from the global organisation's Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) in late-2022 about tests on athletes who competed at last year's world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Athletics NZ said Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ), the country's anti-doping agency, had conducted less than half as many tests as usual across all sports before the world championships due to the government's COVID-19 restrictions.

"The explanation for the reduced level of testing leading up to the 2022 World Championships was shared with, and accepted by, the AIU," Athletics NZ said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Friday.

DFSNZ said the impact of the pandemic had prevented testing from being completed as they had not had safe access to athletes.

"Overall DFSNZ testing numbers for the year to 30 June 2022 were around 50% of what we would normally complete in a year," DFSNZ boss Nick Paterson told Reuters on Friday.

"However, since 1 July 2022 our testing numbers are strong once more and in fact for the year to 30 June 2023 (our financial year) we expect to have collected more samples in a 12-month period than any prior period in our history."

Athletics NZ said it had since developed a plan with DFSNZ to test the pool of athletes who might qualify for this year's athletics world championships in Budapest.

The federation said the plan had been shared with the AIU and accepted.

"As has already been noted by Athletics NZ, it would appear that there will be no sanctions for having lower than expected testing numbers," Paterson said.

"The global pandemic had far-reaching impacts as we all know which were largely out of all of our control."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Bradley Perrett)

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