By Ciaran O’Mahony
One hundred blood and urine samples from Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls have been re-tested and given the “all clear” by Sport Integrity Australia.
The samples were collected from July 2013 to September 2016 and placed in long-term storage.
A recent re-analysis by the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory returned zero positive results from these randomly selected samples.
SIA’s Chief Science Officer, Dr Naomi Speer, says re-testing is essential in the fight against doping, particularly as anti-doping bodies are often playing catch up with new methods of avoiding detection.
“It enables us to take advantage of advances in scientific knowledge and capability to detect doping which wasn’t detectable at the time a sample was collected,” she says.
Prior to Tokyo 2020, SIA and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) told The Jaded Newsman that re-testing would be a major tool in their fight against athletes who used performance enhancing drugs during Covid-19 lockdowns.
“Some athletes take smaller amounts in the hope that they will be undetectable, which is why we utilise the Athlete Biological Passport and Retrospective Testing,” said SIA’s CEO David Sharpe.
David Sharpe, CEO Sport Integrity Australia. Photo: SIA Facebook Page.
“All athletes would be very familiar with the IOC’s re-testing program which has proved successful in back-capturing drug cheats by using new technologies to detect past infringements,” the AOC told us.
“That program will continue to be a deterrent to anyone who might think they can use the pandemic to escape detection.”
WADA and the International Testing Agency (ITA) echoed this sentiment.
“The samples collected prior to and during the Games will be stored for up to 10 years and re-analysed at a later point in time when technology and analysis will further advance,” said ITA spokesperson Marta Nawrocka.
Over the 12 months prior to Tokyo, SIA collected 2,541 samples from Australian athletes in contention for the Olympic and Paralympic games.
Under the World Anti-doping Code, athletes can be disciplined within 10 years of the date a doping violation occurred.
Irish speed walker Rob Heffernan was a beneficiary of this rule, retrospectively receiving Olympic bronze, four years after competing at the London Olympics.
His message to prospective dopers is simple. “Athletes need to know if they cheat, they will be caught.”