Interview: WADA to conduct most extensive anti-doping program in history of Games

(Xinhua) 13:58, July 24, 2021

TOKYO, July 24 (Xinhua) -- The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games opened despite the lingering threats of COVID-19. Following is Xinhua News Agency's exclusive interview with Witold Banka, president of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and WADA's vice president Yang Yang on anti-doping.

Q: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to come here to Xinhua and do this interview with us. I'm so excited. Let's first talk about Tokyo. I know that Tokyo 2020 has the most extensive pre-Games anti-doping program. So what are some of the key features in doping test at the Games?

A(BANKA): It will be the most extensive anti-doping program in terms of testing in the history of the Games. So I think from this perspective, it's really, really good information. I think despite the difficulties, despite the current circumstances that we still have COVID, it's really, very positive.

Q: Yeah, since you were talking about COVID-19 with the countermeasures in place, I bet there might be some of the challenges. So what are some of the major challenges given the circumstances?

A(BANKA): Yeah. Of course. When COVID started affecting us last year, we decreased, I mean globally anti-doping organizations, decreased the number of the testing, but slowly. And we've been coming back to the normally and now I think more than happy to say that even with COVID we have bigger numbers than even before pandemic time 2019. For instance, the out-of-competition testing, the figures are bigger right before the Games than in the period in pre- pandemic time. So I think it's very important.

A(YANG): In terms of the consequences for the pandemic, the number of testing was going down. I also mentioned that the athletes also ddin't have much training during the pandemic and competition as well. That means even we have stayed same level of a lot of tests, it doesn't mean so much to really find out the cheaters because there are not many competitions. I just give another angle of view for anti-doping.

Q: Thank you for that. As I know, WADA has a particularly focus on education of anti-doping. So would you like to talk a bit more about that?

A(YANG): Before the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, we had the pre-education program aiming at the athletes and coaches who were coming to the Olympics. The number of participants was over 7,500, very encouraging. And we have a very comprehensive program for different level of athletes. We also have the program for younger kids, which is delivered in the school by the teachers based on sports value, working with IOC and UNESCO and other partners. So [what] the athlete first know [about] anti-doping is not from test, [it] is from education.

Q: Education is not only for athletes, but also for their entourage - the staff working in the team. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

A(YANG): It is very important for entourage to understand the value of sports of competition, especially in Asia, in part of Asian culture athletes grew up with entourage. I mean, entourage are their parents, coaches, team leaders and doctors, etc. It is important to educate them who have a big influence on the athletes. If they understand the value of sports and about fair play, so they will influence the athletes and keep athletes believe in the play to be a real champion. So it is very important.

Q: Now we're in Tokyo but I know that Beijing Winter Olympics is just months away. So what is the expectation from you towards Beijing 2022.

A(YANG): Our duty is to protect the rights of athletes and also protect the integrity of Olympics.

A(BANKA): And I think that it will be our role the same like here in Tokyo to monitor anti-doping program too. From my personal perspective, I expect really amazing Games.

Q: One more question, what is your feeling working with each other?

A(BANKA): Yeah, it's extremely important. I need to confess. We have a perfect collaboration. As former athletes, we understand each other. So, I'm more than happy to have a vice president, who is a double-gold champion. And she got China's first Winter Olympic gold.

A(YANG): Hahaha. That's enough. We have been working with each other together. We haven't seen each other for one and half year unfortunately. But we were working online and we had a lot of meetings, online meetings. But because of athlete background it's easy to understand each other. We don't meet (each other) very often. But it's easy to understand also we feel the passion, the same passion for sports, which is important.

Q: Yeah, because you were in short track speed skating and you were a former track and field athlete. I think that background can really help you guys better protect clean athletes.

A(YANG): Definitely!

A(BANKA): And create good synergy and strategy.

(Web editor: Meng Bin, Bianji)


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