The ITA is to roll out a long-term storage and analysis programme of samples collected at Olympic Games ©ITA

The International Testing Agency (ITA) is to roll-out a long-term storage and re-analysis programme.

Following the discovery of high numbers of anti-doping rule violations through previous re-analysis projects the ITA was given the responsibility by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with rolling out the programme, to hopefully be used at the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and going forward.

As part of the programme samples taken during Tokyo 2020 and all other subsequent Olympic Games will be retained in a dedicated facility for further analysis, with organisations that are ITA partners able to utilise the services on offer in the facility as part of their anti-doping programmes.

Currently under the World Anti-Doping Code, samples can be stored for up to 10 years after their initial analysis and still retain the same legal weight if re-tested and prosecuted.

Further analysis of samples collected during the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics has so far produced more than 130 anti-doping rule violations, statistics the ITA says highlights the "effectiveness" of the programme.

World Anti-Doping Agency President Witold Bańka said the organisation was fully supportive of the programme.

"The long-term storage of samples for further analysis has proven to be an important tool in the protection of clean sport," said Bańka.

"As detection methods are constantly being improved and updated, retaining samples for 10 years means that those who have cheated cannot rest easy for a full decade after they have been tested. 

"It is a requirement under the 2021 International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI) that signatories must have a written strategy for storage and further analysis as part of their testing programmes and I am confident this policy will have a further impact in the years to come. 

"Furthermore, this storage and further analysis programme would go towards meeting an anti-doping organisation’s compliance requirements under the ISTI and would provide a cost-saving at the same time, as the cost for the transfer and storage of samples is covered by the IOC."

IOC President Thomas Bach said the organisation had "drastically enhanced" the anti-doping programme around the Olympic Games over the past seven years and described this move as the next step.

"We want the cheats to never feel safe, anytime or anywhere," said Bach.

"Now we take the next step by starting a global long-term storage and re-analysis programme, also for samples collected during the pre-Games testing period. 

"We encourage the International Federations and national anti-doping organisations to take the necessary measures regarding these pre-Games samples and to make use of this long-term storage programme which is financed by the IOC. 

"This will further strengthen the deterrence in the fight against doping in particular when combined with the new testing methods."

As part of its management and roll-out of the programme, the ITA has already secured a storage facility which is operational and ready to receive samples.

"The ITA is now demonstrating that it has the necessary capacity for innovation and the confidence of its partners to launch this next chapter in the fight against doping," said ITA chair Dr Valérie Fourneyron.

"The LTS initiative for a standardised and harmonised storage of samples represents a major step forward regarding the effectiveness of the fight against doping for the entire sports community."