COVID testing guidelines update from WADA

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released an updated document for Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) to provide them with suggested best practices for COVID testing programs.

WADA’s May 6th press release issued guidance focused around athletes exiting confinement in countries around the world and the return to standard doping control programs. 

The latest document, updated and renamed “Guidance for Testing during COVID-19 Pandemic”, has since been revised following a thorough review by WADA’s Strategic Testing Expert Group, with input from the World Health Organization and a group of National Anti-Doping Organizations. It also reflects data collected in a September WADA survey (ANTI-DOPING ORGANIZATIONS SURVEY – IMPACT OF COVID-19) aimed at assessing the impact that COVID-19 was having on anti-doping programs worldwide.  

In considering best practices for ADO’s to operate testing programs in line with globally recommended health and hygiene procedures established to protect the health and safety of athletes and sample collection personnel (as well as adhering to the WADA’s own published International Standard for Testing and Investigations), the new guidance includes the following enhancements:

  • A detailed assessment process to determine the level of sample collection that can take place
  • Steps and procedures that an ADO should put in place prior to conducting a sample collection session
  • Additional direction on how to prioritize testing and athletes, plus measures for conducting in-competition testing
  • The testing of sample collection personnel for COVID-19 as an additional risk mitigation measure for ADOs to consider.

Since the onset of the coronavirus, although WADA continued to test athletes worldwide, the governing sports bodies of different nations mandated a hold on doping testing in the interest of safety. Canada and Russia halted all testing, but have since resumed. The UK has not halted all doping testing, but has reduced the number of tests administered since the start of this pandemic. 

WADA Director General Olivier Niggli remarked, “WADA is pleased to provide this updated ADO Guidance to continue to help maintain the integrity of the anti-doping system during the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring the health and safety of athletes, sample collection personnel and others. Subject to the level of restrictions in place in each country, it is crucial that the testing of athletes continues and that ADOs have the necessary information and procedures to do so in a structured and safe way.” 

While Niggli conceded that “testing may be temporarily diminished due to restrictions imposed by government authorities and with limited sports events being held,” he went on to reaffirm WADA’s commitment to clean sporting events through tools available to the anti-doping community such as the Athlete Biological Passport program, whistleblower programs (such as WADA’s Speak Up! program), and storage of samples for possible future analysis. “As the global leader of the fight against doping in sport, WADA wants to ensure that ADOs worldwide use everything at their disposal to secure the integrity of sporting events as they recommence.”

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