This section of the ISMF newsletter is dedicated to a very import matter: the Anti-doping activity of the International Federation, which is managed above all by the ISMF Anti-doping Coordinator, Mrs. Regula Meier, the ISMF General Manager, Mr. Roberto Cavallo, the executive ISMF secretary, Ms. Giulia Avagnina, and the International Testing Agency (ITA).
For the past several years, the ISMF has started its activity in this important field by educating athletes and coaches, and also through the execution of Anti-doping controls In and Out-of-Competition with the support of each ISMF member National Federation. In eight years of activity, only one positive case has been discovered during ISMF competitions!
The editorial staff of the Newsletter has realised a brief interview to the above mentioned people.
Mrs. Meier, what is your activity inside the ISMF?
I am a member of the ISMF Council since 2015, and an International Referee appointed by the Swiss Alpine Club since 2014. In 2016, Mr. Armando Mariotta, the ISMF President, approached me to become the ISMF Anti-doping Coordinator. I immediately accepted this role, as I believe that in such a tough sport, as ski-mountaineering is, it is essential to educate the athletes to compete with honesty, without using banned substances, in order to improve their personal sport performances. I was officially elected during the Plenary Assembly in June 2017 in Andorra.
Some months before the beginning of the 2018/2019 season, I submitted the Anti-doping programme to the ISMF Council, that had to be approved to define the annual budget. Since 2011, the Council has decided to outsource the majority of the ISMF Anti-doping activity to a service provider. Initially it was GAISF (former SportAccord), and now it is the ITA (International Testing Agency).
Mrs. Meier, why the ITA and what does its work consist of?
The fight against doping, educating athletes about this topic, the controls, the knowledge of the various WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) regulations and the management of potential positive cases are important matters that need to be dealt with by professionals. Nowadays, the ITA is already working with several International Federations and has the required skills, expertise and credibility to handle such an important and delicate subject.
At the beginning of the season, the ITA signed a partnership with the ISMF in which the roles and responsibilities of each party are well defined. The main objective is to perform Anti-doping controls Out-of-Competition but also In-Competition at World Cups, Word and Continental Championships as well as events outside of these, following the established and agreed programme. The ITA decides when and where to perform these controls, and selects the WADA accredited laboratories where blood and/or urine samples are analysed. Of course, nobody knows in advance which athletes will be selected for the tests or when the tests will take place. In the 2017/2018 season, there were no positive cases among the ISMF licensed athletes.
Mr. Cavallo, how much is the budget dedicated to the Anti-doping activity and how is it covered?
The budget dedicated to the ISMF Anti-doping activity is about the 20% of the entire ISMF budget, and above all it is financed by the organisers of the World Cup stages, the World Championships, the Continental Championships and by the International Olympic Committee. The budget covers the entire programme of one year and focuses on testing athletes In and Out-of-Competition, on the management of the Registered Testing Pool (RTP), a selected list of athletes having the obligation to file their whereabouts information in ADAMS (Anti-doping Administration & Management System), and on the management of all the testing data, including the Athlete Biological Passport.
Ms. Avagnina, does the ISMF also manage the request of therapeutic use exemptions of the athletes?
Yes, it is partly true since 2015. I mostly monitor the receipt of the possible requests, and then it is the ITA that, with the collaboration of some specialised doctors, manages them officially.
The request of a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) consists in a demand for the exclusive use of some medicines for therapeutic purposes that in normal conditions are prohibited, as they are considered as belonging to the doping substances.
Consequently, if the athletes did not make a proper request and did not inform us about the use of these substances, they would undoubtedly be positive in the anti-doping control.
In reality, I have to say that in these years I have never received any TUE requests. This is probably due to the fact that the racers are aware that this is a fairly complicated and long practice that requires some notice before, so they usually prefer not to take such medicines and resort to alternative therapies.
The role of ITA in the ISMF Anti-Doping programme
The ISMF is currently outsourcing its anti-doping activities to the International Testing Agency (ITA), constituted in 2018 as a not-for-profit foundation based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The mission of the ITA is to offer comprehensive and transparent anti-doping services to International sport Federations and Major Event Organisers.
The ITA first elaborates a Risk Assessment to evaluate the risk of doping in the sport of ski-mountaineering. Based on such initial assessment, a pool of athletes is selected, notified and educated to the provision of individual whereabouts information in ADAMS. The whereabouts information is received by the ITA via ADAMS and used to plan out-of-competition doping controls as per the Test Distribution Plan (TDP) resulting from the initial Risk Assessment. Whereabouts failures are also issued and managed by the ITA whenever athletes cannot be found for testing according to their whereabouts, or in cases where inaccurate whereabouts information are provided. Moreover, In-Competition testing is managed by the ITA at all World Championships, World Cups and Continental Championships.
If required, the ITA processes Therapeutic Use Exemption applications received by international level athletes and manages adverse analytical findings resulting from the testing.
The Steroidal and Haematological modules of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) are also managed by the ITA in collaboration with the Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) of the Swiss Laboratory for Anti-Doping Analyses based in Lausanne – Switzerland.
Finally, the ITA supports the ISMF throughout the WADA compliance process and ensures that all anti-doping activities are carried out in line with the requirements of the World Anti-Doping Code.