Drug testing of Australia’s athletes began eight months ago in a rigorous anti-doping programme ahead of this year’s Rio Olympics to help protect the country’s reputation, authorities revealed Monday.
With doping in the global spotlight, the AustralianSports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) called it the most intensive programme of any Australian Olympic team to date.
ASADA chief Ben McDevitt said the approach maximised drug tester’s opportunities to detect cheating and protect clean athletes.
“Athletes in different sports could benefit from different substances taken at different times, and the testing schedule for our aspiring Olympians and Paralympians is highly targeted to reflect that,” he said in a statement.
“The international spotlight is firmly on doping allegations in sport at the moment, so it is extremely important for Australia to protect our reputation as a nation of fair sport and maintain our strong stance against doping.
“In the lead up to the Games, it is equally important to ensure that no clean athletes miss out on being selected to compete in Rio because their place was taken by an athlete who doped.”
Athletics, in particular, has been under the microscope in recent times with Russia banned after being found guilty of “state-sponsored” doping.
McDevitt said as well as targeted testing, Australia was conducting online and face-to-face education programmes.
“A key part of the education programme is ensuring that athletes are aware that they are personally responsible for every substance that enters their body,” he said.
“The programmes are as much about prevention as they are about catching any athletes who are doing the wrong thing.”
AOC President John Coates said there were plans to send around 450 athletes to Rio in August.
“We will continue our zero tolerance for those who choose to gain an advantage through doping,” Coates said. “There will be no sympathy from us.”
He added that for the first time all Australian Olympic athletes and support personnel would need to sign agreements to assist ASADA and attend an interview to “fully and truthfully answer questions”.
They will also be required to provide information and documents in any ASADA investigation, “even if to do so might tend to incriminate them or expose them to a penalty, sanction or other disciplinary measure”.
Australia’s Olympic athletes agreed last year to have their bags and other possessions searched by team officials following a new ban on sleeping drugs from the day they are selected for Rio.
The hardline stance came in the wake of swimming great Grant Hackett seeking treatment last year for addiction to the prescription drug zolpidem, sold as Stilnox in Australia.
Members of the nation’s swim team also came under scrutiny at the 2012 London Olympics after some took the sleeping tablet at a pre-Games camp. – Agence France-Presse