The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Executive Committee endorsed on Saturday the approval of non-WADA accredited laboratories (e.g. forensic laboratories, clinical laboratories) for blood analysis to support the Athlete Biological Passport Program.
This decision, which was taken as part of WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board meetings, held respectively on Saturday and Sunday in Montreal, followed a number of requests from stakeholders to use properly approved, non-WADA accredited facilities to increase the number of laboratories worldwide that have the capacity to analyze blood for the specific purpose of the Athlete Biological Passport Program.
“This is a significant step forward that the anti-doping community will welcome,” said WADA’s President John Fahey. “Given the rigorous requirements in place to ensure the highest quality standards in anti-doping laboratories, the network of WADA accredited laboratories is relatively small. There are currently only 35 accredited laboratories worldwide. The approval of non-accredited laboratories meeting proper standards will provide anti-doping organizations that have implemented, or will implement, an Athlete Biological Passport Program, the opportunity to have blood samples analyzed in regions of the world that are underserved by the current network of accredited laboratories, without having to transport the samples to other regions.”
In order to receive WADA’s approval to conduct blood analysis as part of the Athlete Biological Passport Program, existing haematological laboratories will have to fulfill a number of criteria. These criteria include in particular the support of at least one anti-doping organization; valid ISO accreditation; satisfactory participation in WADA’s External Quality Assessment Program; compliance with WADA’s standards for blood analysis; as well as proper chain of custody requirements.
During their weekend’s meetings, the Executive Committee and the Foundation Board discussed the ongoing review of the practical implementation of athlete whereabouts requirements by International Federations (IFs) and National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) and supported the current system in place.
The ongoing review of practice, which WADA has consistently indicated it would conduct after one year of application of the revised International Standard for Testing, is aimed at assessing how World Anti-Doping Code (Code) signatories have enforced whereabouts requirements under the Code and how they have exercised their discretion in the management of registered testing pools. This will allow WADA to determine whether practical recommendations are needed to help stakeholders collect appropriate whereabouts information supporting effective testing programs.
Results of a survey circulated earlier this year by WADA to anti-doping organizations showed that Code signatories overwhelmingly support the principle of whereabouts and reported successful implementation of the rules. However the survey also indicated that there is still some misunderstanding from a number of anti-doping organizations as to the purpose of whereabouts requirements.
“Whereabouts information is a key element of effective out-of-competition testing programs,” said WADA’s President. “But they must be used by anti-doping organizations to design and implement truly effective testing programs targeting top level athletes, not just to systematically receive information from disproportionately high or low numbers of athletes that they will then not use. The provisional results of the review clearly indicated a need for user-friendly guidelines that can help IFs and NADOs enforce the whereabouts rules. A working group comprised of individuals from various stakeholders will now continue to consult with athletes and Code signatories and will present potential recommendations for practical improvements at the November meetings of WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board.”
Doping Control Responsibilities
The Executive Committee approved protocols to further foster cooperation between anti-doping organizations in the doping control process.
Article 15.1 of the Code gives responsibility for testing at international sporting events to the international organization that is the ruling body for the event (e.g., the International Olympic Committee for Olympic Games, International Sports Federations for World Championships), while National Anti-Doping Organizations are responsible for testing at national events. However, the article does provide that anti-doping organizations can request permission to test at an event where they are not the ruling body.
In order to encourage effective cooperation between these various anti-doping organizations, the Executive Committee approved a standardized protocol through which an anti-doping organization can request permission to test. These steps include a request to the ruling body at least 35 days prior to the beginning of the event. In case of refusal or non-response by the ruling body, a request to WADA at least 21 days prior to the event can be made, followed by contact between WADA and the ruling body, and then a final decision by WADA.
To render its decision, WADA will consider a number of elements, and in particular the number of tests planned for the event, the distribution of the tests, the substances to be analyzed, as well as the overall anti-doping program of the ruling body. If WADA grants permission for additional testing, the Agency may give the ruling body the possibility of conducting itself such additional testing unless WADA judges that this is not realistic and appropriate in the specific circumstances.
“We are confident that this protocol will provide the anti-doping community with an additional tool to ensure effective in-competition anti-doping programs,” said WADA’s Director General David Howman. “As the independent organization responsible for monitoring the global fight against doping in sport, WADA constantly strives to foster cooperation between its stakeholders. The formalization of these guidelines is a further step in that direction.”
In addition, Members representing governments of all regions of the world and the Olympic Movement were updated on recent developments related to WADA’s key activities. In particular:
• WADA received 99% of its budget (US$24.9 million) in 2009.
• 138 out of 193 UNESCO Member States have now ratified the International Convention against Doping in Sport that took effect in 2007 – a record speed for a UNESCO Treaty.
• WADA’s cooperation with Interpol continues to intensify following the secondment of an officer by the French government to Interpol’s Headquarters in Lyon. This cooperation includes exchange of information and expertise in the fight against doping in sport, as well as actions to encourage governments to adopt effective laws against supply and trafficking of doping substances.
• Following new information received by WADA about possible misuse of CERA by athletes at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, before the substance was put on the market, WADA passed on the information to the International Olympic Committee, which decided to conduct further analysis of a number of samples collected at the time of the 2006 Games. This analysis is ongoing.
• WADA launched last week its latest education and awareness campaign, Say NO! to Doping. In addition, WADA’s Education Team will have a strong presence at the First Youth Olympic Games in August in Singapore.
• WADA will send Independent Observer and Athlete Outreach Teams to the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October and the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November.
The next meeting of WADA’s Executive Committee will be held on September 18 in Montreal. The Executive Committee and the Foundation Board will next meet respectively on November 20 and 21.