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WADA’s Independent Observers aim to ensure the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games anti-doping program is effective

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The 2020 Paralympic Games got underway in Tokyo on Tuesday and amid all the tension, all the buzz and all the anticipation for the action to start, one group of dedicated professionals is working hard in the background, doing their utmost to ensure that the athletes receive the support they deserve from an anti-doping program designed to protect them.

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) Independent Observer (IO) program was first implemented at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and since then, it has sought to enhance athlete and public confidence in the anti-doping programs being carried out at major sporting events, including the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, by monitoring and reporting on all phases of the system.

Working in partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and local organizers, the five-person team is on hand in Tokyo to observe and provide real-time feedback on athlete identification and notification, sample collection, chain of custody, therapeutic use exemptions, results management, and all other areas relevant under the World Anti-Doping Code, International Standards and Technical Documents. To achieve that, the IO team reviews relevant documentation before and during the event, carries out daily assessments at the various official locations, including the Paralympic Village and competition venues.

At the helm as Chair of the IO team is Dr. Jenny Schulze, Testing and Science Manager at Anti-Doping Sweden. Dr. Schulze said: “The Independent Observer program is imperative for a major sporting event like the Paralympic Games. The world needs to see that the anti-doping system is unbiased and that it is carried out according to the best standards for the rights of athletes. Daily during the Games, we meet as a team and we also meet every day with the International Paralympic Committee and the Tokyo Organizing Committee to share the outcomes of our observations.

“We have an excellent working relationship with the IPC and local organizers and the atmosphere has been so welcoming for us. It is a partnership. We are here to collaborate so that we can find solutions and to ensure the anti-doping program is effective and fair.”

Apart from making sure they were up to speed on all the anti-doping rules and technical literature, to get themselves in the mood for the Games, the team members found time to watch the 2020 Netflix documentary, ‘Rising Phoenix’, which is a celebration of the Paralympics and the athletes who make the Games what they are.

Dr. Schulze said: “It was inspirational. We know that, through sport, the Paralympics do a fantastic job of helping to change perceptions of how people with disabilities are viewed. To be a small part of that success, of that movement, is a privilege and makes us even more determined to do our very best for the rights of athletes, wherever they come from and whatever challenges they have had to face to get here.”

The IO Program complements WADA’s compliance monitoring of Major Event Organizations launched a couple of years ago. In addition to providing immediate feedback, the team will also prepare a full report of its work and recommendations to the IPC after the Games. This report will also be published on WADA’s website. For more information on the evolution of the IO Program, see WADA’s recent Spotlight on the subject.

Independent Observer Team – Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

  • Jenny Schulze (Sweden), Manager, Testing and Science, National Anti-Doping Agency of Sweden (Chair);
  • Ieva Lukosiute-Stanikuniene (Lithuania), Senior Manager, NADO/RADO Relations, WADA (Vice-Chair);
  • Thomas Delaye-Fortin (Canada), Head of Legal and Governance, Badminton World Federation;
  • Yoko Dozono (Japan), Medical Consultant, Medicine and Science, WADA; and
  • Jeongmin Lee (Republic of Korea), Member, Asian Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Council (former athlete).

The original article can be found here.

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