There were notable changes announced this week by World Triathlon, with respect to the process by which its anti-doping activities are undertaken, with news that a substantial part of the management and implementation of its anti-doping programme will be transferred to the International Testing Agency (ITA). The initial contract runs until December 2024.
What is the International Testing Agency?
ITA was created in 2018, under the supervision of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Developed in the wake of the findings of systematic doping in Russia and the alleged collaboration with the Russian Doping Agency (RUSADA), the aim was to create independence and remove potential conflicts of interest, where a nation / sport governing body / organiser etc was responsible for implementing the testing and reporting of its ‘own’ athletes.
Specifically, if a body is responsible for promoting a sport or event (and potentially the commercial realities of that), then there could be – or importantly perhaps, be seen to be – incentive to sweep things under the metaphorical carpet.
Thus, the purpose of this move – and ITA undertakes similar roles for federations in cycling, gymnastics, judo and amateur boxing, among others – is primarily driven by a move towards independence. One might reasonably assume that those roles would better fit the core competencies of a specialist too, leaving World Triathlon to focus elsewhere.
Form the Press Release issued this week, the initial scope of this agreement is as follows:
From January 2022, ITA will be updating, monitoring and amending the Risk Assessment, and will be in charge of the development and implementation of the Test distribution plan. ITA will also establish and manage the Registered Testing Pool of World Triathlon, and its consequent management of the whereabouts submission process.
The ITA will be in charge of the organization and management of the Out-of-Competition tests, and the In-Competition testing activities at all World Triathlon events. The International Testing Agency will continue to be in charge of the administration of the Athlete Biological Passports.
The International Testing Agency will also support the delivery of the Education activities in compliance with the international standard of education. The agreement includes 60 hours of education-related work and support of different activities, in coordination with World Triathlon.
World Triathlon will have full access to the ITA’s Whistleblowing platform -Reveal- and the preliminary assessment of the information received via this platform. Both organizations will work on the development and implementation of a long-term storage and reanalysis policy and long-term storage of samples in the ITA’s centralised storage facility.
That final paragraph – storage and reanalysis policy – is quite notable. It was ITA which undertook re-examination of samples from the London 2012 Olympic Games (well before ITA was formed), which highlighted more than 80 undetected anti-doping rule violations, and numerous medals being reassigned as a result.
Not in scope – yet
The devil is in the detail as they say, and while we certainly can’t claim to be experts in the anti-doping field, there are seemingly a few more steps to cross, to fully outsource the end-to-end process. In fairness to World Triathlon, these are reflected in the Press Release issued:
World Triathlon will retain responsibility over the management of its Therapeutic Use Exemption program and will also continue overseeing the Results Management process. World Triathlon and the ITA will pursue the discussions over 2022 to delegate these remaining areas of World Triathlon’s anti-doping programme.
Theraputic Use Exemptions (TUEs) have gained headlines in recent years, with allegations in plenty of quarters that athletes (and teams) were ‘gaming’ the system to gain access to performance enhancement products under ‘approved’ means. If we follow the (potential) conflict of interest theme, then a governing body providing the approval route for TUE applications is seemingly not optimal.
Concluding the ‘discussions’ and finding a route to also delegate those remaining processes to ITA would certainly represent a significant strengthening of this relationship.
“This agreement is a very important step forward to guarantee the full independence of our anti-doping programme, and I am absolutely convinced that this cooperation will bring great success to our organization”, said World Triathlon President and IOC member, Marisol Casado.
“We are very pleased to enter a new partnership with World Triathlon and work to support the athletes of this exciting sport that combines three different disciplines,” says Benjamin Cohen, ITA Director General.
“I thank World Triathlon for their trust in the independence and expertise that the ITA offers, our team looks forward to supporting triathletes with their clean sport programs.”