The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is funding three projects to explore the possible uses of artificial intelligence (AI) in the global anti-doping programme.
In conjunction with the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ), it follows a call for applications for targeted research on the application and impact of AI in the area of anti-doping.
Eight proposals were submitted and, after careful assessment by WADA and FRQ, the successful projects were selected for funding.
WADA senior director, sciences and international partnerships, Dr Olivier Rabin, said: "AI is an exciting area to be explored and WADA believes there is enormous untapped potential for its use within anti-doping, particularly when it comes to the analysis of big data.
"In time, we think it could have a hugely positive impact.
"These three complementary projects will help shed some light on the extent of AI's potential in the anti-doping context and we are pleased to be able to support what we hope will be important pieces of research."
Chief scientist of Québec, Dr Rémi Quirion, said: "Montreal has become a world leader in the area of artificial intelligence and it is thrilled that WADA has decided to engage closely with the Québec research community in this field.
"It is hoped through these three projects that we will raise the understanding of the impacts that AI could have on the fight against doping, both technologically and socially.
"Multi-disciplinary collaborations such as these are ensuring that Québec researchers are at the centre of international efforts in this field as they use their expertise to solve complex global problems."
The first project, led by Montreal company "Dataperformers", will be carried out in collaboration with the WADA-accredited laboratory in Paris, known as the Département des analyses de l’Agence française de lutte contre le dopage.
The one-year project will explore possible techniques for the analysis and application of AI to detect the use of prohibited substances or methods to circumvent anti-doping rules.
If the results are promising, they will be compared with those obtained using traditional statistical methods, such as the adaptive model currently used for the athlete biological passport
The second project involves another Montreal-based company, "Element AI", and aims to quantify the risk of doping in athletes through the application of AI and, as a result, develop a sampling and testing strategy based on proprietary algorithms - the project will be funded for two years.
The third project involves members of the "Centre for Genomics and Politics" at McGill University in Montreal, supervised by Professor Yann Joly.
This study will use a qualitative approach to identify the perceptions of different stakeholders regarding the use of AI and its benefits in the context of anti-doping and to guide dialogue between WADA, other anti-doping organisations, athletes and the general public.
The project will also be funded for a two-year period.
In May 2018, WADA and the FRQ signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which will yield CAD2 million (£1.2 million/$1.5 million/€1.4 million) for anti-doping research over a five-year period, with the possibility of renewing the agreement beyond that mandate.