Sport Ireland has published its Anti-Doping Review for 2020. The review provides comprehensive details of the activities of the Irish Anti-Doping Programme throughout the year.

Despite the restrictions in place due to Covid-19, 1,045 tests were still carried out across 27 different sports as part of the testing programme.

In-competition samples accounted for only 17%, with out-of-competition samples making up 83% of the national testing programme.

The report calls out Russia and the reaction of the World anti-doping community in a punchy statement in the report.

“It is unfortunate that, once again, events away from the playing field have continued to blight the fight against doping in sport. There was a distinct sense of déjà vu as the matter of Russian compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code reared its head again at the back end of the year. What had already been a very difficult year for sport was further compounded by the news that the Court of Arbitration for Sport had completely watered down the already weak sanctions imposed on Russia by WADA for their various transgressions.”

“After an episode that had dragged on for years, Russia received a virtual slap on the wrist that amounted to a ban on a national anthem and a reduced sentence for bad behaviour. This behaviour included the wholesale manipulation of data after repeated attempts to stall the progress of WADA’s investigations. Hardly a
worthy sanction for the greatest scandal to have hit international sport.”

“We now face the prospect of Russian athletes competing in Russia, where they will compete in Russian colours and will compete with Russia across their uniforms. In 2016, over 280 Russian athletes took part in the Rio Olympic Games; potentially nearly 300 athletes from countries that play by the rules could be denied a spot in Tokyo Olympics next year, with many more potentially competing in the Paralympic Games.”

“Is this fair?”

Returning then to matters of a more domestic nature There were 191 tests carried out in cycling, 138 in Gaelic Games and 114 in Rugby.

“2020 was a year like no other, one where we saw significant stoppages and curtailment of sporting activity,” said Minister for Tourism, Culture, the Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

“It was crucial however that the integrity of Irish Sport and the Anti-Doping Programme was not impacted. To this end, Sport Ireland and my Department successfully secured an exemption to designate anti-doping activity as ‘essential’ allowing sample collection personnel to continue their important work right around the country.”

“The commitment of all involved to roll out a rigorous testing programme in the face of considerable upheaval is testament to the appetite to ensure that Irish athletes compete with the utmost integrity”.

Sport Ireland contributed to an international working group of National Anti-Doping Organisations which developed Modifications to Sample Collection Protocols which were used by WADA as a foundation in the development of their protocols.

This work highlights the strong role Sport Ireland holds as a leader in the international anti-doping arena.

Roger O’Connor, Chairperson of the Anti-Doping Committee acknowledged the strong partnerships which support the work of the Anti-Doping Unit, “Here in Ireland we are lucky to have strong partners at a statutory level as we work towards clean sport.”

“We were also delighted in 2020 to sign an MOU with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, which will assist joint working between the agencies including information sharing, particularly when there are overlapping interests or areas of mutual concern.”

Sport Ireland’s Anti-Doping Unit continued to bolster its education provision in 2020. In total 6,544 athletes and athlete support personnel were educated via face-to-face seminars (prior to the onset of the pandemic), online education sessions or via the Sport Ireland Anti-Doping e-learning site. This total is an increase on 2019 figures (6,445) notwithstanding the COVID-19 restrictions in place throughout the year.

Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy commented, “The Anti-Doping Review shows the strong performance of the programme despite the restrictions and challenges faced by all parties as a result of Covid-19. This is testament to the commitment of Sport Ireland staff, sample collection personnel, the National Governing Bodies of Sport and the athletes to ensure that our athletes compete clean. Unfortunately, the high standards of governance and transparency we see in Irish sport are not evident in all countries and we continue to fight the case for stronger governance and oversight across the global anti-doping system. Athletes worldwide need to have the confidence that they are competing on a fair, level and transparent playing field; and we support them fully”.

Dr Una May, Director of Participation and Ethics, Sport Ireland acknowledged the many organisations involved in the anti-doping activities, “Sport Ireland believes that an athlete’s first experience of anti-doping should be through education and not doping control. Despite the ongoing restrictions in 2020 education continued to be a priority. 6,544 athletes and athlete support personnel were educated through face-to-face session (before the pandemic began), and subsequently through online education sessions and e-learning. This is an increase on the 2019 figures and is testament to the commitment to anti-doping education. We also made considerable progress in the development of the new anti-doping education plan which will be fully compliant with WADA’s new International Standard for Education and aim to launch this in 2021”.


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