(This post has been updated with information received from the Portuguese organisers of the 2016 World MTBO Championships. The updates are shown in the text in blue)
I always believed that the anti-doping fight was too important a matter to be left to the anti-doping officers, to paraphrase Clemenceau’s famous assertion that war is too important a matter to be left to the generals.
Yet, I always found it difficult to have a meaningful discussion about it with Brian and the Council when I was the Chair of the MTBO Commission. Their argument was, of course, that anti-doping matters are highly confidential. That is obviously a very relevant point regarding specific tests, but I could never figure out the reason for their reluctance to discuss anti-doping strategy and finance. Were they hiding their lack of understanding and unwillingness to learn about the topic? Or were they simply reluctant to engage in meaningful discussions?
To the deepest regret of most top managers, questions do not disappear just because they do not want to talk about them. This applies also to the IOF’s anti-doping activity, and the more one scratches the surface the more questions pop up. In this post I will share with you some observations that suggests that all is not well. I have more facts about MTBO for the simple reason that I talk to most athletes and organisers in that discipline, but both anecdotal evidence and data available suggests that there are similar questions across all disciplines of the IOF.
Fewer AD tests
There was a sharp drop in the number of AD tests for MTBO athletes commissioned by the IOF. There is no official data available, but MTBO is a small community (a bit like FootO was in the 80s and 90s), and people talk to each other.
Some explanation: OOC stands for out of competition, IC stands for in competition. The peak in 2016 was achieved in a hybrid year of financing when the IOF leadership introduced flat taxes (or “donations”, as they call it), instead of just surprising the organisers on the event by the number of AD tests to be paid for. The Portuguese World Championship organisers were asked if they wanted to pay the then newly set fee of €4000 according to the new AD financing system, or pay for the tests as requested by the IOF according to the old system. Knowing that typical number of tests requested would cost less than €4000, the Portuguese elected to pay themselves. They had the pleasure to pay for a record number of 27 AD tests on 18 athletes, far the highest ever requested by the IOF on a single World MTBO Championships. That cost the Portuguese organisers at around €6500, including doctors’ fee. There was a strong feeling that the IOF took advantage of the situation that the Portuguese elected to go by the old system. This feeling of being taken advantage of was strengthened, when both in 2017 and 2018 the IOF paid only for 8 tests (i.e. less then third that of ordered in 2016) on the World MTBO Championships, despite collecting a record amount of €5000 and €5500 from the organisers.
Anecdotal evidence from FootO elite athletes suggests that recently there was also a sharp drop in AD tests on major FootO events.
Unfortunately, the hard facts available also point to the same directions. The number of athletes in the IOF Registered Testing Pool has dropped by over 60% in 2 years. The number of FootO athletes dropped from 8 to 3 between 2016 and 2018. These are the athletes who have to report their whereabouts in WADA’s ADAMS system, that is, these are the athletes who can get an out of competition AD tests ordered by the IOF. You may find the lists of the registered athletes here.
But this is not the end of the story.