After a social media maelstrom moved the NCAA to action in addressing inequities in access to equipment and quality of food and swag bags at the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments, the association is again under fire — this time over how the differences in how it handles COVID-19 testing.
The Associated Press reports that while the women’s tournament is conducting daily antigen tests, the men’s tournament is testing participants with PCR testing — which is believed to be more accurate.
The disparity caught the ire of Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, who issued a statement through the team’s social media accounts calling the inequities “purposeful and hurtful,” and saying she felt “betrayed by the NCAA.”
This cannot continue to be business as usual. pic.twitter.com/gyIEgcRRpY— Stanford Women’s Basketball (@StanfordWBB) March 21, 2021
“Seeing men’s health valued at a higher level than that of women, as evidenced by different testing protocols at both tournaments, is disheartening,” read the statement. “This cannot continue to be business as usual.”
The AP reports that it followed the recommendations of its COVID-19 advisory group, which recommended either a daily antigen or PCR test claiming either would be “equally effective models for basketball championships.”
USA Today reports that while antigen tests can provide a quick result, they can sometimes miss an active infection. Meanwhile, a PCR test is considered to be more accurate, because it “actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms," according to a USA Today source.
NCAA president Mark Emmert defended the different protocols, saying that despite the different tests, the risk mitigation of either approach is equal.
"I’m not a medical expert so not going to get into a debate about PCR and antigen,” Emmert told USA Today. “All the health experts said the protocol that we’re using in all of our venues and all of our championships has no difference at all in terms of our ability to mitigate risk.”
Meanwhile, Stanford has reportedly asked university presidents and conference commissioners to seek accountability from NCAA officials who made decisions resulting in inequities.