Together towards clean sport, one step at a time: stairs in front of the Katowice conference centre in Poland, where the World Conference On Doping in Sport was held on 5-7 November 2019.

The International Testing Agency (ITA) held its Board Meeting a day ahead of the start of the WADA Conference in Katowice last Monday, 4 November 2019. Next to reappointing three current Board Members, among whom the Chair Dr Valérie Fourneyron, the agency’s leadership reiterated its support on welcoming two more independent Board Members by the end of 2020. This would result in a Board constitution with over half its Members not being involved in any capacity in the sport or anti-doping movement thereby underlining ITA’s aim for balance and independence.

The two additional Board Members will be identified shortly by the constituencies of the Olympic Movement. According to the statutory framework established ahead of the creation of the ITA, the appointees will need to undergo a vetting process by a WADA independent ad-hoc nominations committee before their vote-in by WADA’s Executive Committee. In this regard, the ITA Board strongly supported the appointment of one more athlete or former athlete among the two future nominees. The ITA administration will also develop a policy on term renewal following the current best practices that will apply to its Board in order to ensure a healthy member rotation.

Reappointed as ITA Board representatives were Dr Valérie Fourneyron, former French Minister for Youth & Sport (who was also re-elected as independent Chair), Professor Peijie Chen, President of the Shanghai University of Sport sitting in the ITA Board as an independent member, as well as Francesco Ricci Bitti, President of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and representing the International sport Federations in the ITA Board. Two other Board members have already been reappointed earlier this year: representing athletes in the ITA Board, former Olympic swimmer, Minister of Sport of Zimbabwe and Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission Mrs Kirsty Coventry, and representing the IOC, Prof Dr Ugur Erdener, President of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey and IOC Vice-President.

The Board acknowledged ITA’s activities, especially the projects in the areas of testing, long term storage and reanalysis, education, support to partners with their compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code or the accreditation of international doping control officers to guarantee better protection to athletes worldwide. An update was also delivered on the anti-doping program of the upcoming 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne and the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games noting that cooperation is in full swing with the respective organizing committees but also WADA and the national anti-doping agencies of Switzerland and Japan.

The ITA’s Board serves as a  supervisory and consulting body for the organisation, it does not take part in operational or managerial decisions – these remain in the responsibility of the Director General.

Strengthening collaborations at the WADA Conference

Following its Board Meeting, the ITA took part in the World Conference On Doping In Sport in Katowice. Most importantly, it presented its activities to the WADA Foundation Board, highlighting essential joint projects with WADA such as Dry Blood Spot testing, anti-doping education and support to the compliance of International Federations and Major Event Organizers with the World Anti-Doping Code.

The ITA also took note of the International Olympic Committee’s wish to explore the detection of gene doping and would offer collaboration to apply and test this new method during its testing activities at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, if already available. A second project mentioned by the IOC was the long-term storage of samples collected both before and during the Games, a project the ITA is ready to work on in cooperation with all anti-doping organisations in order to establish robust and efficient policies on the subject.

The conference was also a welcome occasion for a third gathering of the ITA pre-Games Expert Group which is responsible for ensuring that testing efforts leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Games are effective and gaps are addressed. The ITA Expert Group is composed of delegates from five International Federations and five National Anti-Doping Organisations, forming a diverse and independent body spanning across five continents and representing large, medium and small federations with expert knowledge on individual and team sports. It will start sharing testing recommendations with other anti-doping organisations (ADOs) to make sure that the testing of Olympic athletes is conducted globally as a coordinated endeavour. The early start of the group’s work, together with the pre-Games sample long-term storage, will contribute to the most comprehensive pre-Games anti-doping programme ever.

Finally, the ITA fully endorses the Katowice Declaration which further strengthens the role of WADA and promotes the fight for clean sport and the protection of athletes worldwide. The ITA is fully ready to support the outcomes of this Declaration and welcomes the call made to all stakeholders of the Olympic and Sports Movement to strengthen their cooperation with the ITA with the view to enhancing anti-doping capacity across all sports disciplines and regions of the world.