WADA President Witold Bańka claims its new figures show "great resilience, collaboration and innovation" ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has revealed that global testing managed to stay close to normal levels throughout last year despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, although the number of samples collected fell short of the 2019 total.

New figures released by WADA show that 274,254 doping control samples were collected by 256 Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) in 2021, compared to 168,256 by 207 in 2020 and 305,881 by 253 in 2019.

Fewer events taking place last year has been cited by WADA as the reason why the level of in-competition testing remains lower than in pre-pandemic times, with 102,503 samples registered in comparison to 142,814 in 2019.

However, WADA highlights that the number of out-of-competition samples collected in the past 12 months is more than in 2019, with 171,751 logged in 2021 - 8,684 more than the figure posted two years ago.

"The latest testing figures show that the anti-doping community has managed to maintain high levels of testing despite a return of severe restrictions in many parts of the world due to Omicron and other variants of the virus," said WADA President Witold Bańka.

"This demonstrates great resilience, collaboration and innovation as we continue to protect athletes in the build-up to next month’s Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing."

WADA has called also on all ADOs to utilise the long-term sample storage system set up by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when collecting samples from athletes in the build-up to the Winter Olympics here in Beijing.

Samples can be stored securely and without cost to ADOs at the International Testing Agency’s (ITA) storage facility in Switzerland.

WADA has released its testing figures for 2021 - a year which saw the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics take place ©WADA
WADA has released its testing figures for 2021 - a year which saw the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics take place ©WADA

The samples are expected to be used in the future for further analysis as new scientific and analytical methods are continually being developed.

WADA says it is "very supportive" of the implementation of the long-term sample storage programme - delivered by the ITA on behalf of the IOC.

"I urge all Anti-Doping Organisations that have not yet done so, to take full advantage of the pre-Olympic long-term storage programme," said Bańka.

"This excellent initiative allows them to put samples away securely for possible further analysis in the future.

"It has already proven to be effective to detect doping retrospectively as science advances.

"What makes this even better for the Anti-Doping Organisations is that the transport and storage costs are borne entirely by the IOC."

Bańka also urged AGOs to make sure athletes are "properly tested" prior to leaving for the Winter Olympics, scheduled to start on February 4, and they implement the testing recommendations received from the ITA-led Pre-Games Expert Group.

"WADA’s number-one priority remains public safety, and we continue to provide support and advice to Anti-Doping Organisations and athletes to make sure the integrity of the system is maintained in a safe and secure way," added Bańka.

"But it is not all about testing.

"As we look ahead to the Beijing Games, WADA has also encouraged and supported Anti-Doping Organisations worldwide to use all tools at their disposal, including in particular education, intelligence and investigations, and the Athlete Biological Passport, to ensure the best possible anti-doping programmes."