Athletes in action at the London Marathon (© AFP/Getty Images)
World Athletics’ 2020 road running season will recommence this month with an extensive international calendar of Label Races to be held through until the end of the year, supported by a strong anti-doping programme, despite the challenging circumstances for race organisers.
The schedule begins with the Vidovdanska Trka 10km (Bronze Label) on 6 September and still features the Virgin Money London Marathon (Platinum Label) on 4 October, the same day as the venerable Kosice Peace Marathon (Silver Label) in Slovakia, as well as a host of other Gold, Silver and Bronze events in various countries.
This schedule does remain subject to change, due to the ongoing uncertainty created by the progress of the Coronavirus pandemic around the world.
The Athletics Integrity Unit reached a landmark agreement with the Abbott World Marathon Majors last year, which builds on their long-standing partnership. The organisation agreed to provide additional funding for intelligence-led anti-doping investigation and testing programmes, which would allow the AIU to monitor a larger pool of elite road runners.
That programme has been expanded this year with contributions from other key stakeholders of the road running community – the organisers of all Label races, athlete representatives and shoe companies.
Three major shoe companies – ASICS, Adidas and Nike – have agreed to contribute to the AIU’s Road Running Integrity Programme.
The ongoing commitment of all these key stakeholders means that more than 300 Platinum and Gold Label athletes will be monitored and tested during the coming season.
The Athletics Integrity Unit expects to be able to create individual intelligence profiles for all of these athletes this year, establishing baseline parameters for each athlete’s biological passport, ahead of target testing in 2021.
World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon thanked the race directors of the Label programme for their persistence and ingenuity in continuing to organise road races safely under the very challenging circumstances this year.
“The road racing community has endured huge disruption this year as it is largely reliant on mass participation events, which have not been possible in many countries over the last few months,’’ he said.
“But we recognise that many of our professional road runners are reliant on prize money to support themselves so we’re pleased to see that opportunities still remain for them to compete, in safe conditions, over the latter part of this year.
“It’s also vital that these races are protected by strong integrity programmes so the athletes can be confident that they are competing on fair playing fields. The cooperation that we are seeing between the different commercial stakeholders, including some of the shoe companies, to support the integrity of our sport, is an important development for the future of road racing and I would like to thank them for their commitment.”
The Head of the AIU, Brett Clothier added: “When we put together this programme, we had no forewarning of how disruptive the coronavirus pandemic would be to the road racing calendar this year. Despite the very many other challenges this has created for Label races, agents and shoe manufactures, not least financially, we’re delighted that these funding contributors remain committed to this anti-doping programme.
“Race cancellations have allowed us to reduce the annual budget in these exceptional circumstances and make smaller demands on some of our contributors than they initially agreed but even the directors of cancelled races have been willing to continue making some contribution to a programme that will protect the integrity of their events in years to come.”
“We are pleased that these three shoe companies also recognise that this programme is crucial to the health of the sport, both ethically and commercially, and are willing to support it. Their collaboration will allow us to build an even stronger integrity platform for 2021, when we hope that the sport can resume on a more normal footing.”
Olympic qualifying resumes
Athletes competing in Label marathons over the coming months will also have the opportunity to register qualifying performances for the Tokyo Olympic Games, rescheduled for 2021.
In late July, World Athletics agreed to lift the suspension on the Tokyo Olympic qualifying process for the marathon and race walk events from 1 September 2020, due to concerns over the lack of qualifying opportunities that may be available for road athletes before the qualification period finishes on 31 May 2021.
The original suspension period, from 6 April to 30 November 2020, was introduced due to the competition and training disruption caused by the global pandemic, and remains in place for all other track and field events.
Road athletes will be able to register Olympic qualifying entry standards from 1 September to 30 November, but only in pre-identified, advertised and authorised races being staged on World Athletics certified courses, with in-competition drug testing on site.
The accrual of points for world rankings and the automatic qualification through Gold label marathons /Platinum Label marathons remains suspended until 30 November 2020.
The Athletics Integrity Unit has confirmed it will have appropriate anti-doping systems in place for all qualifying races.
About the Road Running Integrity Programme:
The Athletics Integrity Unit runs an extensive anti-doping programme covering more than 300 professional road runners. The programme activities of testing, intelligence, investigation, prosecution and education are funded entirely through contributions from World Athletics, Abbott World Marathon Majors, World Athletics Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Label Road Races, Platinum and Gold Label Athletes and their Athlete Representatives, and running shoe companies: Adidas, ASICS and Nike.