(ATR) The newly established International Testing Agency (ITA) Cycling Unit has been fully integrated and is now operational, managing all aspects of the Union Cycliste International (UCI) anti-doping program.
The ITA Cycling Unit is up and running. (UCI)
Integration of the UCI’s Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), established in 2008, into the ITA’s new Cycling Unit took effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
Eleven of 13 former CADF staff have jointed the ITA ensuring that professional cycling’s anti-doping efforts proceed without any lapse and that no loss of sport-specific expertise occurs. Collaboration between UCI and ITA on the project began one year ago, but is now in full gear.
ITA director general Benjamin Cohen, UCI director general Amina Lanaya and ITA Cycling Unit head Olivier Banuls addressed media at a virtual roundtable Wednesday to provide further details about the work.
“We went through a very thorough process throughout 2020 and with the outstanding participation of all concerned staff from the ITA, UCI and CADF and to ensure that the cycling unit would be operational by January 1st, 2021, and I’m glad to say that we made it,” said Banuls.
UCI president David Lappartient and ITA chair Valerie Fourneyron provided recorded statements offering their satisfaction.
“I’m confident that these experts will work tirelessly at the highest possible level for the sport of cycling, and with the same dedication and determination as the work they already perform for all other sports and events that the ITA oversees,” Fourneyron said. “ITA is the way forward to protect athletes and keep sport clean.”
UCI president David Lappartient provided a prerecorded message.
“The UCI believes the ITA is the right partner for a global approach that could bring synergies in key area such as research, intelligence and investigations putting costs and resources together,” Lappartient said.
Additional tools created by the ITA Cycling Unit include a new long-term storage facility in Switzerland that can store athlete anti-doping samples for up to 10 years and the establishment of a whistle blower task force to investigate tips and information provided by anonymous sources. It is being called ‘Reveal That Sport'.
“These will be very important tools moving forward,” said ITA director general Benjamin Cohen.
Cohen spoke about synergies and the significance of the new ITA Cycling Unit being located in close proximity in Switzerland.
“We can no longer afford to have one expert working in isolation and another one here,” Cohen said. “We need to put their expertise together to be more clever, to be faster and to be more efficient, and that’s what we’ve done with the integration.
“I am extremely happy that we now have the cycling unit here and they can exchange with other ITA experts and that’s the way forward to be more efficient.”
Comprised of experts in all areas of anti-doping, ITA was established in summer 2019 and now works with more than 40 sport organizations. Based in Lausanne, there are 60 staff members and additional consultants representing 25 nationalities.
Testing by UCI declined in 2020. (WADA)
“The ITA is an innovator in everything they are doing from the very beginning,” said the UCI director general Lanaya. “Their aim is keeping sport as a frontrunner in the fight against doping and they demonstrate that.
“We finally believed this approach is the right answer to the challenges posed by doping traffickers as it was in the Aderlass investigation.
“I can tell you the UCI is very excited about this which combines cycling’s experience and know how with ITA’s state-of-the-art resources and a 360-degree approach,” she said.
For UCI and other sport organizations that now utilize ITA to execute their anti-doping efforts, it is a shift in the world of international sport and a step towards a global and independent approach to clean sport.
According to the UCI, in 2020, approximately 9,500 anti-doping samples were collected across 112 events, 70 percent out of competition. It was a global reduction of 33 percent compared to 2019.
Lanaya outlined future steps and goals of the new joint UCI-ITA collaboration to ultimately succeed in eliminating doping cheats in sport.
In 2021, maintaining the same level of quality will be the minimum requirement. In 2021 and beyond, gaining effectiveness and stepping up the program is the objective.
As in 2020, the ITA and the Cycling Unit will continue monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and make the best of the situation to keep running the anti-doping program as planned.
“With all the synergies that the ITA already has, we will continue to develop and know that the fight against doping will remain at the forefront,” Lanaya said.
Written and reported by Brian Pinelli
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