Stanford Women's Coach Slams NCAA For Sexist COVID Testing Procedures

by Julie Scagell
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The “gold standard” COVID test is being given to the men’s teams, but not the women’s

COVID-19 testing is now the latest discrepancy between how the men and women’s NCAA teams are being treated during the tournament, outraging many about the blatant inequalities present.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer issued a statement Saturday night upset at “evidence of blatant sexism” that is “purposeful and hurtful,” after the tournament’s admission that the women’s teams were receiving daily antigen testing, while the men’s teams were using daily PCR tests to detect the coronavirus.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, antigen tests have a quick turnaround time for results but, “have a higher chance of missing an active infection.”

PCR testing is considered the “gold standard” in SARS-CoV-2 detection, according to Memorial Healthcare.

PCR tests detect RNA that is specific to the virus and “can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms.” According to the CDC, the accuracy of antigen testing depends on circumstances in which they are used, and are most accurate “when the person is tested when viral load is generally highest,” meaning an active infection.

A few false positives have already occurred at the women’s tournament, which have been immediately retested using the PCR test. “What I pointed out was the leadership making some decisions that are clearly one way for the men and one way for the women,” VanDerveer continued. “I was most upset with the testing because obviously I’m not as young as our players. But our players have handled things extremely well. And what we’ve really tried to focus on is not get bent out of shape about the swag bag, they have addressed the weight room, but to just come out and focus on playing and playing well.”

The NCAA said it followed recommendations of its COVID-19 medical advisory group, following guidance from the CDC and local medical authorities. The NCAA advisory group said either daily PCR or antigen testing were “equally effective models for basketball championships.”

This comes on the heels of a public apology issued by the tournament’s director after a viral video showed the difference between the men’s training gym and the women’s, which amounted to a single stack of dumbbells.

“Women athletes and coaches are done waiting, not just for upgrades of a weight room, but for equity in every facet of life,” VanDerveer said. “Seeing men’s health valued at a higher level than that of women, as evidenced by different testing protocols at both tournaments, is disheartening.”

UConn guard Christyn Williams agreed, saying of the testing differences.“It’s mind-blowing.”