Gold-label races to implement out-of-competition drug testing

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has announced its decision of approval for out-of-competition drug testing for IAAF Gold Label races, which include the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, and the Ottawa 10K run. Out-of-competition testing is drug testing that can be done on the athletes in the pool at any time, not just prior or post competitions, but throughout the year, as they work, train or are on vacation. This is done to fight against doping in sports, trying to create a fair playing field for all the athletes.

As such, the IAAF Council approved a new funding scheme developed in collaboration with the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which is aiming to significantly increase the out-of-competition drug testing pool for athletes competing mainly in road races. According to IAAF, these actions are taken to secure the integrity of the sport.

The statistics examined by the federation have revealed that in 2018, approximately 76% of the fifty IAAF Gold Label road race winners were not part of any out-of-competition, anti-doping program. Moreover, 74% of the podium finishers of Gold Label road races were not included in out-of-competition testing pools in the sport, or within their countries and in 22% of these races, the athletes who finished on the podium were not tested out-of-competition.

According to Running Magazine, out-of-competition testing was developed to catch the more experienced dopers who knew how to avoid detection when tested on race day. Accordingly, athletes required to undergo out-of-competition testing need to disclose their whereabouts at all times and can be tested anytime, anywhere in the world. This type of testing will now be funded by the IAAF for athletes competing at Gold Label races and in World Major Marathons.

“I’m really delighted to see the IAAF extending the anti-doping campaign to Gold Label races… If the anti-doping programme had not been extended to our events, then I expressed the serious concern that the dopers would just move down the line from WMM races to Gold Label ones. I think it’s critical for the integrity of the sport and community that we collaborate and work together.”

Alan Brookes, race director of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, in interview with Canadian Running Magazine

The current out-of-competition anti-doping program is administered by the AIU and typically targets the top 10-15% athletes in each sport. In addition, national anti-doping organisations are responsible for testing the second-tier athletes in order to ensure that the athletes likely to compete for medals at the Olympic Games, World Championship or other World Athletics Series level competition enter the Registered Testing Pool (RTP).

However, with the significant increase in popularity of road running in recent years, a large proportion of athletes competing in Gold, Silver, Bronze and non-label road races never get tested out-of-competition.

In response to the announcement by IAAF to approve the out-of-competition testing, Jos Hermens, Director of Global Sports Communication, said, “We are proud to be part of such a proactive move that will keep the sport credible and financially successful for years to come, and we are happy to contribute to its long-term health.”

According to a press release by IAAF, the implementation of the new regulations has been met with “widespread enthusiasm and support from athlete managers, race organizers and athletes alike.”

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