In its mission to protect the clean athletes, as emphasised in Olympic Agenda 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is funding and supporting seven innovative research projects in the fight against doping, with more projects set to be added next month.
The seven projects – in Australia, Spain and the United Kingdom – were selected from among applications received during two open calls by the IOC for proposals from around the world. The deadline for the third call for proposals has recently passed, with an IOC expert panel now reviewing the applications received.
An overview of the seven research projects currently being funded follows:
· Improving compliance with blood testing (Fundació Institut Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques; Spain);
- Establishing the “intention to dope” through interviewing techniques (James Cook University; UK);
- Low-volume blood sample kits (National Measurement Institute, Australia);
· Massive expression analysis to identify doping (Spanish Olympic Committee with IMDEA Nanociencia; CEU University, HM foundation);
· Doping confrontation efficacy (University of Birmingham; UK);
· Clean Sport Bystander Intervention Programme (Leeds Beckett University; UK); and
· Development and evaluation of an anti-doping intervention app targeting the psychological variables that make an athlete susceptible to doping (Curtin University; Australia).
One of the first initiatives of Olympic Agenda 2020 was the creation of a USD 20 million fund to protect the clean athletes. Half of the money was earmarked to fund social and scientific research pertaining to anti-doping, the other half to fight match-fixing. The IOC called on governments to match the USD 10 million set aside to fight doping, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), under the presidency of IOC Vice-President Sir Craig Reedie, successfully secured pledges of USD 6.45 million, meaning that the WADA-administered fund has a budget of almost USD 13 million.
The IOC decided to use the remaining USD 3.55 million balance from the USD 10 million to administer a separate fund for new anti-doping research in the fight against doping, specifically for researchers involved in athlete-centred projects, with a scientific or social focus.
The IOC’s strategy for the distribution of this fund is to complement, but not duplicate, existing anti-doping research programmes. Anti-doping organisations agree that alternative strategies are needed, so the priority is innovative and novel research in all areas of anti-doping which has the potential to lead to a significant change in the way anti-doping programmes are carried out, and which will have a direct impact on the daily lives of the clean athletes.
An IOC expert panel is reviewing the 22 applications received in the third call for proposals, with a decision on which project or projects to support and fund from the remaining USD 2.5 million scheduled for October.
The applications are being evaluated according to five main criteria:
1. Relevance to IOC research priorities: a) novel and original proposal, b) relevant to athletes, c) practical applicability to the fight against doping in sport;
2. Importance and relevance of proposed research to the fight against doping in sport;
3. Expertise and experience of researchers: a) previous relevant research, b) previous relevant grants;
4. Scientific validity of the proposal; and
5. Likelihood of success