WADA have issued guidance as anti-doping bodies aim to resume testing ©WADA

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has updated its guidance for Anti-Doping Organisations (ADO) as several aim to restart or return to normal doping control programmes in their countries.

The latest update follows guidance issued on March 20, which provided advice on developing specific guidelines, procedures and training for sample collection personnel, as well as ensuring those collecting samples do not show any symptoms related to coronavirus.

Sample collection personnel should also be instructed to ask athletes upon initial communication whether anyone at the testing location is sick, experiencing symptoms or in the at-risk demographic.

WADA said the guidance has been refined to reflect the evolving nature of the pandemic, its effect on the global testing programme and the fact that some parts of the world that had suspended or significantly reduced testing are getting back to normal as COVID-19 restrictions begin to be lifted.

The guidance concentrates in particular on what procedures should be employed by ADOs and their sample collection personnel when conducting testing during this period.

WADA has advised ADOs to consider several criteria to guide its decision on how and when testing should resume, including the status of the virus and whether there are movement restrictions.

Considerations should also include whether sport and competitions are beginning to resume in the country, the amount of personal protective equipment and whether it could be difficult to provide or potentially jeopardise its availability to frontline health care workers.

Organisations should also assess the status of their WADA accredited laboratory, including whether there are restrictions related to the shipment of samples.

A phased approach has been suggested should testing resume, with WADA saying out-of-competition testing ideally should focus on home visits where only one athlete is tested.

WADA President Witold Bańka said health and safety remains the top priority ©Getty Images
WADA President Witold Bańka said health and safety remains the top priority ©Getty Images

Collection of urine samples would keep the number of sample collection personnel to a minimum, with advice to consider blood sample collections only if intelligence warrants it or if blood samples for the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) are urgently required from athletes in high-risk endurance sports.

Further advice includes a call to consider focusing on registered testing pool athletes from high-risk sports, athletes from sports and disciplines where training is still possible and athletes from whom there is intelligence, a suspicious ABP profile or an Athlete Passport Management Unit recommendation for testing.

WADA suggest organisations slowing increase the pool of athletes tested as they eventually aim to resume a full testing programme.

Guidance on the use of personal protective equipment is included, such as the use of gloves, face masks and disinfectant products, as well as clear instructions on hand washing and physical distancing.

Recommendations are also made over sample collection personnel and the information and communication strategy for athletes and other stakeholders.

"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, WADA has been keeping in close contact with Anti-Doping Organisations in order to provide leadership and support in the face of this unprecedented situation," said Witold Bańka, WADA President.

"As always, our first priority must be public health, safety and social responsibility.

"Therefore, we continue to urge everyone to follow closely the advice of relevant health authorities and Government agencies.

"Where testing programs can resume, we are providing clear guidance so that the integrity of the system can be maintained without jeopardising the health of athletes, sample collection personnel or anyone coming into contact with them.

"It is crucial that the system can return to full power as quickly as possible once the various restrictions are lifted, in line with the different circumstances around the world.

"What this pandemic has demonstrated is the need for further innovation in anti-doping. 

"WADA knows that to make anti-doping more effective, we continually need to innovate.

"Our work, in collaboration with the wider anti-doping community, researching new sample collection and analytical techniques has been ramped up, in particular in the areas of dried-blood-spot analysis and artificial intelligence.

"We continue to develop practical applications for these innovations while ensuring the appropriate consultation process is followed, and that they are legally sound and in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code and related international standard before coming into force."

Several anti-doping bodies hope to resume testing as lockdown measures in their countries ease ©Getty Images
Several anti-doping bodies hope to resume testing as lockdown measures in their countries ease ©Getty Images

WADA said it has developed the guidance following consultation with a group of National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) to determine how the anti-doping community can best operate their testing programmes in this challenging environment.

The guidance follows globally recommended health and hygiene procedures and is in line with the international standard for testing and investigations.

"WADA and the anti-doping community know that this continues to be a difficult and uncertain time for athletes," said Olivier Niggli, WADA director general.

"As a community, we must ensure that testing continues or resumes only with the necessary health and hygiene protocols in place.

"The safety of athletes and those around them remains our number one concern.

"We must also do everything possible to secure athlete confidence that, when sporting events recommence, they will be as clean as possible.

"The global anti-doping system is not just about testing. 

"For example, the ABP is a useful tool to assess the longer-term profile for each athlete. 

"We continue to receive intelligence through our whistleblower program, 'Speak Up!', that can lead to target-testing or the launching of investigations.

"And WADA is increasing access to Clean Sport education and information programmes worldwide for athletes and their support personnel.

"So we have tools we can use to maintain the integrity of the system even when testing is temporarily diminished or suspended.

"In the coming weeks, WADA will establish a strategic testing working group that will, among other activities, collect feedback from ADOs on their testing programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic and review the lessons learned.

 "The group will also consider ways to address any other crisis situations that may arise in terms of testing in the future."

The latest guidance can be read in full here.