THE ITA ROLLS OUT LARGE SCALE SAMPLE LONG-TERM STORAGE & RE-ANALYSIS PROGRAM FOR TOKYO 2020 AND BEYOND

The International Testing Agency (ITA) has been entrusted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with the full support of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), to roll out and manage a global long-term storage and re-analysis program. This follows the successful discovery of a high number of anti-doping rule violations through previous re-analysis projects. Samples from the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and all other subsequent Olympic Games will be retained in a dedicated facility for further analysis. Existing and future ITA partners will also be able to access sample retention in this facility and re-analysis services in order to fortify their anti-doping programs. 

Long-term storage (LTS) of samples has emerged as one of the most impactful strategies to protect clean athletes and deter doping over the past decade. Today, under the World Anti-Doping Code, samples can be stored for up to 10 years after their initial analysis and still retain the same legal impact if re-tested and prosecuted. This allows them to be re-analysed for previously undetected substances, should scientific breakthroughs enable new technologies and analysis methods.

WADA President Witold Bańka said: “WADA is fully supportive of this initiative and commends the IOC and ITA for their work in this area. The long-term storage of samples for further analysis has proven to be an important tool in the protection of clean sport. As detection methods are constantly being improved and updated, retaining samples for 10 years means that those who have cheated cannot rest easy for a full decade after they have been tested. It is a requirement under the 2021 International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI) that Signatories must have a written strategy for storage and further analysis as part of their testing programs and I am confident this policy will have a further impact in the years to come. Furthermore, this storage and further analysis program would go towards meeting an Anti-Doping Organization’s compliance requirements under the ISTI and would provide a cost-saving at the same time, as the cost for the transfer and storage of samples is covered by the IOC.”

LTS and further analysis is also part of the global anti-doping strategy of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a requirement of the International Standard for Testing and Investigations to have such a strategy documented. The further analysis of samples collected during Beijing 2008 and London 2012 has so far produced over 130 Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs), which clearly highlights the effectiveness of such a program to provide dissuasion and the ability to further detect cheating. Therefore, the IOC had announced during the World Anti-Doping Conference in Katowice in November 2019 to dedicate a budget to develop a global LTS program and to provide a systematic approach to enable International Federations (IFs) and National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) to store their samples collected prior to the Games at no additional cost.

“Since 2013 the IOC has drastically enhanced the anti-doping programme before and during the Olympic Games. To increase the deterrence factor, we extended the storage time of samples and the subsequent reanalysis from samples taken during the Games, using new testing methods as they became available. We want the cheats to never feel safe, anytime or anywhere. Now we take the next step by starting a global long-term storage and re-analysis programme, also for samples collected during the pre-Games testing period. This means that also these samples should be stored for up to ten years. We encourage the International Federations and National Anti-Doping Organisations to take the necessary measures regarding these pre-Games samples and to make use of this long-term storage programme which is financed by the IOC. This will further strengthen the deterrence in the fight against doping in particular when combined with the new testing methods,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.

Tasked with the development and management of this global program, the ITA has established a highly secured Centralised Long-Term Storage Facility (CLTSF) which is now operational and ready to receive samples. All summer IFs and NADOs are encouraged to store samples collected during the time leading up to Tokyo 2020 and any following Olympic event (‘pre-Games period’) to the CLTSF with the support of the ITA, who will coordinate the shipment, referencing and storage of the samples. In complement with the work done by the ITA Tokyo 2020 Pre-Games Expert Group, which issues recommendations to participating IFs and NADOs to close possible testing gaps ahead of the Games, this will constitute the most extensive pre-Games anti-doping program ever implemented.

The selection of samples for storage will be based on a risk assessment carried out by each organisation. The storage of samples and logistics will not incur any additional costs for the participating IFs and NADOs, as it is covered by the abovementioned budget. As the agency tasked with implementing the Olympic anti-doping programs, the ITA will also store all samples it collects during the Games in the CLTSF.

Organisations storing their samples in ITA’s facility retain ownership and authority over them and can request re-analysis at any time – in that case, the ITA would arrange a transfer of the sample to a designated WADA-accredited laboratory. For this initiative to be a success, close cooperation between the ITA and all WADA-accredited laboratories involved is essential.

Next to enabling the systematic storage of samples collected before and during the Olympic Games, the ITA can now propose the development of LTS policies, sample storage in the CLTSF and the management of re-analysis programs to all Anti-Doping Organisations in order to help them reinforce their efforts to protect athletes and catch cheats.

“I am pleased that the ITA has been appointed to lead this global project and will play a central role in the future in providing logistical support to all organisations involved”, says ITA Chair Dr Valérie Fourneyron. “Through its independent work managing anti-doping programmes delegated by IFs and MEOs, it is already making an important contribution to the prevention of conflicts of interest when it comes to clean sport. Beyond this, the ITA is now demonstrating that it has the necessary capacity for innovation and the confidence of its partners to launch this next chapter in the fight against doping. The LTS initiative for a standardised and harmonised storage of samples represents a major step forward regarding the effectiveness of the fight against doping for the entire sports community.”