World Athletics’ road running season will recommence this month with an improved anti-doping programme thanks to the financial support of three major shoe companies.
The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) revealed that Adidas, ASICS and Nike have agreed to inject money into the Road Running Integrity Programme, meaning more than 300 platinum and gold label athletes will be monitored and tested during the coming season.
The 2020 schedule is due to resume on Sunday (September 6) with the Vidovdanska Trka 10km and is set to feature the Virgin Money London Marathon on October 4 – the same day as the Kosice Peace Marathon in Slovakia.
Last year, the AIU reached an agreement with the Abbott World Marathon Majors which pledged to provide additional funding for intelligence-led anti-doping investigation and testing programmes.
The Road Running Integrity Programme has been expanded this year with contributions from other key stakeholders of the road running community – the organisers of all Label races, athlete representatives and the three shoe companies.
More than 350 out-of-competition tests were carried out by the AIU during the first three months of the year.
But due to the decreased number of races in 2020 following the COVID-19 outbreak, the programme has been adapted.
"When we put together this programme, we had no forewarning of how disruptive the coronavirus pandemic would be to the road racing calendar this year," Brett Clothier, head of the AIU, said.
"Despite the very many other challenges this has created for Label races, agents and shoe manufacturers, not least financially, we’re delighted that these funding contributors remain committed to this anti-doping programme.
"Race cancellations have allowed us to reduce the annual budget in these exceptional circumstances and make smaller demands on some of our contributors than they initially agreed but even the directors of cancelled races have been willing to continue making some contributions to a programme that will protect the integrity of their events in years to come.
"We are pleased that these three shoe companies also recognise that this programme is crucial to the health of the sport, both ethically and commercially, and are willing to support it.
"Their collaboration will allow us to build an even stronger integrity platform for 2021, when we hope that the sport can resume on a more normal footing."
Jon Ridgeon, chief executive at World Athletics, added: "The cooperation that we are seeing between the different commercial stakeholders, including some of the shoe companies, to support the integrity of our sport, is an important development for the future of road racing and I would like to thank them for their commitment."
One of the key features of the programme for 2020 includes an overall registered testing pool of 305 athletes with the majority of those believed to be from Kenya and Ethiopia.
The top 40 runners (20 male and 20 female) are set to be tested in accordance with an advanced intelligence-led testing programme that is appropriate to their 2020 racing calendar.
The remaining 265 athletes will be subject mainly to group testing specifically for the purpose of establishing their athlete biological passport (ABP) profile.
The AIU, in conjunction with the two National Federations and the National Anti-Doping Agencies in Ethiopia and Kenya, is also expected to support educational activities across the 305 athletes, utilising digital resources, leaflets, virtual conferences and face-to-face seminars, when and where they are safe to conduct, for the remainder of the year.
"This approach is a practical response to the unique circumstances we currently face with regards to road running," Clothier added.
"There was clear feedback from the key stakeholders, that, despite the financial difficulties, the sport does not want to raise the white flag on anti-doping and when the sport does return to a more normal level of competition in the future, it should be with a strong integrity platform still in place."