The International Testing Agency (ITA) is spearheading an independent anti-doping control program in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in preparation for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
The ITA will be leading a re-analysis of doping control samples that were collected during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
According to the rules set out by the World Anti-Doping Agency, samples collected for doping control can be stored for up to 10 years after the initial collection, and the first wave of tests will focus on athletes who are still competing at a world-class level. Long-term analysis allows the ITA to incorporate new technologies that may have allowed dopers to evade past controls. The decade-long approach also affords the organization the ability to study an athlete’s biological passport over time, which tracks any abnormal spikes in the results.
The anti-doping initiative being carried out by the ITA on behalf of the IOC is part of a long-term storage and re-analysis plan that began in 2018.
Re-analysis of doping control samples provides an additional layer of integrity protection in sports as it extends the duration of the detection period for a sample long after initial sample collection.
Re-analysis of samples from the Olympic Games is nothing out of the ordinary.
The IOC made the decision during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to keep all samples for long-term storage, with the intent to re-analyze them before any upcoming Olympic Games.
The ITA has recently started retesting doping control samples using a comprehensive risk assessment strategy. This risk assessment takes into account a number of factors, including the physiology of the sport, individual athlete factors, country risk levels, and any additional external information.
The current and first stage of the re-analysis program will focus on samples from athletes who are still actively competing. The first stage will be completed prior to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games to ensure that athletes who could potentially be competing at the event have their samples tested.
The second phase of the retesting program will take place following the 2024 Paris Olympics, beginning in 2025, and will focus on athletes who are no longer competing.
ITA Director General Benjamin Cohen spoke of the re-analysis program, “The ITA is putting together all available initiatives to safeguard the integrity of the Olympic Games”
“Launching the re-analysis of samples collected during the Olympic Games Rio 2016 with a focus on athletes who are likely to take part in the Games in Paris next summer will help promote trust and credibility among the athlete community.”
“We work first and foremost for the athletes and must provide them guarantees that if they train hard and clean, they will perform on the Olympic stage on a level playing field with their competitors.”
During the previous re-analysis initiative ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, 73 athlete samples, including 46 medalists, returned adverse findings from samples collected during the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics.