World Rugby has announced details of its targeted pre-Olympic Games rugby sevens anti-doping testing and education programme, the most scientific and comprehensive pre-event programme ever operated in the sport.

Operational since 1 January, the extensive programme is in addition to World Rugby's annual testing and education regime and has been run in consultation with national and regional Anti-Doping organisations (NADOs and RADOs) operating across 22 nations and the IOC/WADA Pre-Olympic Games task force, demonstrating the sport's commitment to the protection of clean athletes and the benefits of a strong collaborative approach with the global anti-doping community.

The programme has captured all Olympic players from qualified nations as well as players from teams still in the qualification hunt during that period. It comprised a total of 1,289 samples across the period with 83 per cent of tests conducted out of competition.

On average, each player who has made it to Rio was tested 2.3 times. This is in addition to testing programmes run by NADOs as part of their own pre-Games programmes.

In total, 70 per cent of controls were urine and 17 per cent of controls were for blood within a programme that included additional analysis of samples for Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents (ESA), such as EPO, as well as for growth hormone (growth hormone releasing factors (GHRF) or human growth hormone (HGH)). The remaining 13 per cent were Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) haematological module samples. All urine samples were analysed as steroidal module ABP samples.

Programme highlights:

  • Intelligent, risk-based programme combining testing and education
  • 1,289 in and out-of-competition tests on players
  • Tests undertaken across 22 nations
  • 83 per cent of long-list tests collected out of competition
  • Every player selected for Rio tested at least once
  • Players selected for Rio tested on average 2.3 times during the period
  • 30 per cent of total tests were blood samples
  • 65 per cent of all long-list samples collected were subjected to additional analysis for either erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESA), such as EPO, or human growth hormone
  • Keep Rugby Clean education delivered to players and team personnel
  • Strategic long-term storage of samples to allow for future re-analysis.

All samples have been stored to enable future analysis and to date, there have been two recorded adverse analytical findings during the period. Both players were Russian and both tested positive for melondium but were subsequently cleared to play following their respective hearings in line with WADA’s notice regarding that substance. All tests on Russian players were collected and analysed outside of Russia.

During the period, all players have supported World Rugby’s Keep Rugby Clean educational programme, completing e-learning modules and assisting World Rugby promote the initiative, which has delivered education to more than 15,000 players at World Rugby events including the men’s and women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Olympic Games repechage events.

Match day behind the scenes: Anti-doping testing
Rugby commentator Sean Maloney went behind the scenes on a Sevens match day to see how the anti-doping procedures work for players.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Doping is one of the biggest threats to the integrity of sport and World Rugby continues to be committed to protecting clean athletes through intelligent testing and values-based education.

“World Rugby upholds the values of integrity, discipline and respect. Our top men’s and women’s sevens players are excited to be representing rugby on sport’s biggest stage and look forward to showcasing rugby’s character-building values to educate aspiring sports men and women that there are no short cuts to the top.”

World Rugby Anti-Doping General Manager Mike Earl added: “World Rugby is committed to effective, risk-based anti-doping testing, and we also take our role very seriously to ensure that players at all levels of the game understand that there is no place for doping in our sport. 

"This dedicated pre-Olympic programme, featuring a more than 5:1 proportion of out-of-competition versus in-competition testing, haematological and steroidal biological passports, and additional analysis conducted on 65 per cent of all samples collected, reflects our commitment to effective test planning and analysis in this important area. It is the most scientific and comprehensive pre-event programme ever operated in our sport. Rugby is proud to work in partnership with our NADO and RADO colleagues and to support WADA and the IOC in contributing to what we hope will be a fantastic Olympic Games in Rio.”