WADA and International Testing Agency ensure athletes are well prepared for Paris 2024

WADA Athlete Council publishes Question & Answer document responding to athlete questions in lead up to the Games


With less than five months to go before the 2024 Olympic Games get underway in Paris, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and International Testing Agency (ITA) provide an overview on how the two organizations have been collaborating with anti-doping organizations worldwide to ensure all athletes likely to participate in Paris will be properly prepared in advance of the competition. A focused update is also given regarding the testing of Russian athletes that may compete as neutrals at the Games.

The anti-doping program for the Olympic Games in Paris is being managed by the ITA on behalf of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), including the coordination of testing activities during the important phase ahead of the event. Launched in October 2023, the ITA’s pre-Games program supports worldwide anti-doping efforts implemented in the lead-up to Paris 2024 to ensure that athletes are subject to a robust and risk-proportionate testing regime. The ITA appointed a Paris 2024 pre-Games Expert Group to support this work by addressing potential gaps and issuing testing recommendations to all relevant Anti-doping Organizations (ADOs) around the world, in particular National and Regional Anti-Doping Organizations and International Federations. The work of this ITA-led Group is now well underway with the full support of WADA.

The Group, which is composed of experts from diverse backgrounds, sports and regions, has been set up by the ITA to guide that work. It issues recommendations to ADOs in the build-up to the major event to support them with strategic testing guidance. For the first time, the ITA has also appointed a Supervisory Panel to support and monitor the work and independent approach of the Expert Group, ensuring a broad representation to help strengthen anti-doping measures in this Pre-Games period. WADA holds an observer position on this Supervisory Panel and is encouraging ADOs, as a priority, to implement all recommendations, which rely on the same principles as the International Standard for Testing and Investigations, and the World Anti-Doping Code

WADA President Witold Bańka said: “WADA is pleased to be cooperating with the International Testing Agency ahead of Paris 2024. Year by year, the global anti-doping program becomes more robust, and part of that success is due to the strong collaborations we have built with key stakeholders, such as the ITA through its Pre-Games initiatives for Major Events. We call upon the International Federations and National/Regional Anti-Doping Organizations to implement all the testing recommendations that they receive from the Group. It is important for the broader system that those recommendations are implemented fully, and WADA will be monitoring that closely. In addition, it is vital that Anti-Doping Organizations communicate with all the relevant laboratories to prioritize the analysis of samples for athletes likely to attend the Games so that results can be managed appropriately and, where possible, prior to the athlete competing at the Games.” 

Chair of the ITA Foundation Board, Dr. Valérie Fourneyron, said: "Preparation for the 2024 Olympic Games is currently the ITA's top priority. We have been working for years to plan and implement the anti-doping program for Paris 2024 with the ultimate goal of providing the best possible, impartial and expert-delivered clean sport regime to participating athletes. In the run-up to the Games, we strongly support the need for a consistent, harmonized approach across the clean sport community and provide clear and strategic support through the recommendations of the Pre-Games Expert Group. The support and cooperation we receive from WADA and other stakeholders is critical to the overall success of the program.” 

In addition and as previously announced, the ITA has begun the further analysis program for samples collected at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with the first phase focused on active athletes who could potentially take part in Paris 2024. In order to fill any testing gaps, if necessary, the IOC also has an extended testing authority under its anti-doping rules that begins three months ahead of the Games. This means that with any gaps identified by the Expert Group, the ITA has the authority to conduct testing directly on these athletes on behalf of the IOC during this three-month period.  

While testing is a major component of the pre-Games program, it does not tell the full story. Part of the preparation lies in the education of athletes and their entourage. In this area, WADA has led the way in collaboration with the IOC and ITA. In September last year, WADA launched a new education course for athletes and coaches intending to be at the Paris 2024 Games. Since then, 3,299 athletes and coaches have completed the course. The ITA has issued a dedicated  Paris 2024 Education Guidebook for National Olympic Committees and is hosting a dedicated webinar on testing at the Games to assist preparation for athletes.

As it relates to athletes from Russia who may be eligible to compete at the Games as neutrals, they too remain subject to proportionate in- and out-of-competition testing. Top athletes from that country are included either on their NADO’s or respective International Federation’s registered testing pools. Between 1 January 2023 and 27 February 2024, RUSADA collected 12,873 samples from Russian athletes in Russia, sending them for analysis to WADA-accredited laboratories located outside of Russia. In addition, the ITA and the International Federations have collected 1,232 samples within Russia since the start of 2023, focusing on international-level athletes that are actively competing or bound to participate in high-level events such as the Olympic Games. During the same period Russian athletes training or competing outside of their countries have also been tested by the international authorities. Testing information is registered within the ADAMS database and samples are being monitored via the Athlete Biological Passport program.

“The ITA is responsible not only for the Olympic anti-doping program, but also for over 80% of the summer Olympic sports, which facilitates the monitoring of athletes throughout the season all the way to the Olympic Games" says ITA Director General Benjamin Cohen. "Our intelligence-led testing programs are based on a comprehensive assessment of all associated risks leading to testing that is proportionate to those risks. This naturally applies to athletes from Russia and Belarus, whom we test through independent sample collection personnel, but also to athletes from any other nation or sport that we consider more at risk for various reasons. The aim is to put our focus where it is needed with an unbiased approach based on science, research, available data and proven strategic initiatives." 

Mr. Bańka added: “Despite this and given the history, WADA remains vigilant and wary when it comes to Russia. We must leave no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring that all the proper education and testing have taken place in advance of Paris. When they gather on the starting line, the athletes of the world want to know that all their competitors, regardless of where they are from, have faced the same pre-Games anti-doping conditions as they have and that they can be reassured the system is protecting them. To achieve this, Anti-Doping Organizations must use every available tool. The athletes of the world are counting on us.”  

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency remains non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. The two-year period covered by the 2020 decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) elapsed at the end of 2022. WADA is monitoring whether RUSADA meets the conditions of reinstatement as laid out by the CAS decision. Separately, a fresh critical non-conformity was identified related to inconsistencies between the federal Russian sports legislation and the Code. At its meeting on 22 September 2023, the WADA Executive Committee accepted a recommendation from the independent Compliance Review Committee to impose on RUSADA new consequences and reinstatement conditions. As announced on 17 November 2023, RUSADA did not accept this decision, the matter is now pending before CAS. 

WADA and the ITA have also committed to communicate regularly with athletes and other stakeholders in the lead-in to the Games, in particular given the special attention around the participation of neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus. Specific sessions have been organized by the IOC Athlete Commission and WADA Athlete Council to answer any questions athletes may have and address any lingering concerns. In addition, WADA’s Athlete Council has published Question & Answers which responds to the most common questions being asked, including around the level of testing and education that athletes who qualify to compete in the Olympic or Paralympic Games can expect to receive. 

Chair of the WADA Athlete Council, Ryan Pini, said: “In recent weeks, we have received several questions related to various aspects of the anti-doping program from athletes who want to know that everything possible is being done to ensure the fairness of the Games. So, the WADA Athlete Council compiled a list of questions and have worked with the various authorities to provide answers that are as comprehensive as possible. We hope the answers will be helpful and will provide the reassurance athletes are looking for as they know that WADA, ITA, IOC, IPC and numerous Anti-Doping Organizations around the world are working together to ensure that athletes’ right to compete on a level playing field in Paris is upheld.” 

In the weeks and months leading up to Paris 2024, WADA’s Athlete Council intends to continue to keep athletes informed of the latest developments lead-up to the Games.