Coordinated by the ITA, the pre-Games program is a collaborative effort between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), International Summer Olympic Federations (IFs), and National/Regional Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs/RADOs) to ensure that testing gaps are detected and addressed ahead of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The work on this program began in 2019 when the ITA Pre-Games Expert Group consisting of a pool of specialists from International Federations (IFs) – representing both team and individual sports – and National and Regional Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs/RADOs) representing all five world continents was formed (please see the composition of the group below).
The group is responsible for reviewing available information on athletes who are likely to compete in the Games. It performs a risk assessment and shares testing recommendations with other anti-doping organisations (ADOs) to ensure that effective testing is conducted globally through a coordinated effort.
In December 2020, after updating the pre-Games risk assessment and re-calibrating its efforts after the postponement of Tokyo 2020, the group issued around 26’000 testing recommendations. This high number of recommendations is due to the fact that all 33 participating sports underwent review, and that they were issued more than six months prior to the event when the pool of potentially participating athletes had not been finalised. The review of all participating sports and the early issuing of the recommendations make this the most extensive pre-Games anti-doping program ever implemented for an edition of the Olympic Games. For comparison, the pre-Games anti-doping program for the last Summer Olympics in Rio started one month prior to the event and was comprised of 1’500 recommendations for 7 at-risk disciplines.
The ITA Pre-Games Expert Group has been monitoring the worldwide implementation of the recommendations on a dedicated platform on which all ADOs can share information about qualifications and the tests they had planned. A little more than a month before the pre-Games program ends with the opening of the Olympic Village, recommendations have been followed with at least one doping control for more than 75% for athletes and teams likely going to the Games*. Testing activity continues in the weeks leading up to the Games, and so these figures are expected to improve.
Furthermore, as the IOC and the ITA have secured an extended testing jurisdiction for the IOC allowing for additional testing to take place two months ahead of Tokyo 2020, the ITA is currently also directly filling potential testing gaps through doping controls on its own initiative.
As an additional deterrent effect for those tempted to use prohibited substances, the ITA continues to offer all interested ADOs, with the support of WADA, the opportunity to store samples collected before the Games in its Centralised Long-Term Storage Facility (CLTSF) that was set up through a dedicated IOC-fund. This allows for samples to be re-analysed for up to 10 years.
Margo Mountjoy (FINA), ITA Pre-Games Expert Group member highlights: “Protecting the clean athlete and the integrity of the Olympic Games takes a coordinated effort between the International Federations with our partners, the National Anti-doping Organizations. Through the collaborative efforts under the leadership of the ITA, I am confident that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympic Games have the most robust pre-Games anti-doping program in history.”
“As we emerge from the COVID-19 global pandemic, the anti-doping community’s top priority must be to hold all sports and countries accountable, guided by the recommendations of the Pre-Games Expert Group – and to test athletes at the right time with the right tests”, adds Matthew Fedoruk (USADA), also a member of the ITA Pre-Games Expert Group. “All organizations involved owe every athlete who is concerned about the integrity of the Games a robust anti-doping program based on transparency and cooperation. Our goal is that clean athletes are able to celebrate their Olympic moment knowing the integrity of competition has been fully protected.”
The testing levels already achieved show the willingness to cooperate on the part of the majority of the organisations concerned and also the stamina to work towards clean Games despite the current hurdles caused by the COVID-19 virus.