Marathon runners in action (© Organisers)
In 2018, 76 percent of 50 IAAF Gold Label* road race winners were not part of any out-of-competition anti-doping programme. In the same year, 74 percent of the podium finishers in those Gold Label road races were not included in out of competition testing pools in the sport or within their countries. In 22 percent of those races, not a single athlete who finished on the podium in either the male or female race was tested out-of-competition (OOC).
In response to those startling figures, the IAAF Council gave a resounding approval to a new funding scheme, developed jointly by the IAAF and the Athletes Integrity Unit (AIU), that will dramatically increase the out-of-competition drug testing pool for athletes who compete primarily in road races stating that the IAAF is leading the world in anti-doping so this is the logical next step in securing the integrity of the sport.
The current OOC anti-doping programme administered by the Athletics Integrity Unit usually focuses on the top 10 to 15 male and female athletes in each athletics discipline, with national anti-doping organisations charged with testing the second tier athletes, a system that ensures that the athletes most likely to compete for medals at Olympic Games, World Championship or other World Athletics Series level competition are part of the Registered Testing Pool (RTP).
But with the rapid growth, expansion and success of road running in recent years, hundreds of athletes competing for lucrative prize money in Gold, Silver, Bronze and non-label road races are never tested out-of-competition. The Abbott
World Marathon Majors have already addressed this issue for their six races by funding an anti-doping programme administered by the AIU, and the scheme approved today will go a long way to change the alarming shortfall in out-of-competition testing for all other IAAF Label Road Races.
“With its extraordinary growth in recent years, the road racing industry was at the risk of becoming a victim of its own success. Now is the crucial time to address the vulnerabilities that have been identified to protect the future of this growing, vibrant industry,” said IAAF President Sebastian Coe.
“Addressing this has been a genuine collaboration between the IAAF, the AIU, the Abbott WMM, and Gold Label races, managers and athletes and I would like to thank everyone for coming together and taking collective responsibility for strengthening these events so they can continue to inspire, motivate and challenge the world to move.
“While we believe the overall framework of this new funding model will provide a lasting solution, it is important to remember that details will be thoroughly reviewed after twelve months.”
The financial contribution model proposed by the Road Running Commission and approved by Council will create a system by which the financial burden will be shared by all stakeholders with race organisers, athlete managers and athletes each contributing to the funding pool.
According to the AIU, the average current annual cost of funding an athlete that is included in the RTP is US$10,500, which includes the full cost of the AIU’s intelligence based anti-doping programme. With the goal to increase the testing pool to approximately 300 athletes in 2020, that figure could be brought down to $9000 without compromising the integrity of the testing.
Under the current system, the AIU and IAAF fund the first 50 athletes (the marathon and half marathon athletes) in the testing pool. Additional funding sources will include:
- Managers, who will contribute through a fixed fee per each of their athletes included in the pool - $500 for Gold status athletes and $1000 for platinum
- Athletes, who will notionally contribute via a 1.5% levy on prize money (and on appearance fees in Platinum races). That amount will be payable by race organisers.
- Races, which will contribute according to their status: Platinum marathons ($66,667), Gold marathons ($15,000), Silver marathons ($10,000) and Bronze marathons ($5,000); Platinum road races ($20,000), Gold road races ($10,000), Silver road races ($5,000) and bronze road races ($2,500).
The model and size of contributions have been designed and balanced to ensure that Gold Label status races will have enough athletes from which to choose and negotiate with while also maintaining a high number of athletes available for the Silver and Bronze label events as well. The Road Running Commission pointed out that being included in the expanded OOC testing pool will actually increase the market value of Gold Label status athletes and protect the integrity of the races choosing to be included in the system.
The new system has been met with widespread enthusiasm and support from athlete managers, race organisers and athletes alike.
"It’s important that the fight against doping is a shared commitment of the industry," said Jos Hermens, Director of Global Sports Communication. "We are proud to be part of such a proactive move that will keep the sport credible and financially successful for years to come, and we are happy to contribute to its long-term health."
Tim Hadzima, Executive Director of the Abbott World Marathon Majors said, “Today’s news is another major step forward in keeping our sport clean and fair. We are delighted that other organisations, the athletes and the wider industry will now be supporting the cause that we have championed for many years. A united effort to tackle doping will make for a stronger, more successful sport for everyone involved.”
Elana van Zyl Meyer, an Ambassador for the Cape Town Marathon, said, "The Cape Town Marathon executive team is in full support of a “shared commitment” approach to protect the integrity of the sport and to fight doping at every level. We would be proud to be part of such an approach, one that we believe will keep the sport credible and ensure financial sustainability for years to come. We are happy to contribute towards it."
Alan Brookes, Race Director Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, added, "We believe strongly in the Gold Label race programme. It is a very important part of road running and if the anti-doping programme wasn't extended to our events, there would be serious concerns that the dopers would move down the line from WMM races to Gold Label ones. I think it's critical for the integrity of the sport and community that we collaborate and work together.”
* excluding the six Gold Label marathons that comprise the Abbott World Marathon Majors: Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, Virgin Money London Marathon, BMW Berlin-Marathon, Bank of America Chicago Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon