Sport Ireland publishes 2020 Anti-Doping Review

Sport Ireland today published its Anti-Doping Review for 2020. The review provides comprehensive details of the activities of the Irish anti-doping programme throughout the year.

Despite the restrictions in place due to Covid-19, 1,045 tests were carried out across 27 different sports as part of the testing programme. In-competition samples accounted for only 17%, with out-of-competition samples making up 83% of the national testing programme.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, commented: “2020 was a year like no other, one where we saw significant stoppages and curtailment of sporting activity. It was crucial, however, that the integrity of Irish sport and the anti-doping programme was not impacted.

“To this end, Sport Ireland and my department successfully secured an exemption to designate anti-doping activity as ‘essential’, allowing sample collection personnel to continue their important work right around the country. The commitment of all involved to roll out a rigorous testing programme in the face of considerable upheaval is testament to the appetite to ensure that Irish athletes compete with the utmost integrity.”

The Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht, Jack Chambers, commended the commitment and cooperation of the athletes throughout a difficult year. He stated: “The support and commitment of Irish athletes in engaging with the anti-doping programme must be commended. The postponement of the Olympics and Paralympics Games as well as many international events was no doubt a very challenging time for the athletes but the commitment to clean sport did not waiver and they adhered to the additional protocols remarkably. On an international level, Sport Ireland anti-doping is a key player in the world wide fight against doping and throughout 2020 this work continued at pace.”


Sport Ireland contributed to an international working group of national anti-doping organisations which developed modifications to sample collection protocols that were used by WADA as a foundation in the development of their protocols. This work highlights the strong role Sport Ireland holds as a leader in the international anti-doping arena.

Roger O’Connor, chairperson of the anti-doping committee, acknowledged the strong partnerships which support the work of the anti-doping unit: “Here in Ireland we are lucky to have strong partners at statutory level as we work towards clean sport. I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Health Product Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). We were also delighted in 2020 to sign an MOU with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, which will assist joint working between the agencies including information sharing, particularly when there are overlapping interests or areas of mutual concern.

“I would also like to extend my thanks to Caroline Murphy, my predecessor, for all her work and contribution to anti-doping in Ireland during her time as chairperson of the anti-doping committee. Caroline has been an excellent leader and an outstanding advocate for clean sport.”

Sport Ireland’s anti-doping unit continued to bolster its education provision in 2020. In total 6,544 athletes and athlete support personnel were educated via face-to-face seminars (prior to the onset of the pandemic), online education sessions or via the Sport Ireland anti-doping e-learning site. This total is an increase on 2019 figures (6,445), notwithstanding the Covid-19 restrictions in place throughout the year.


The chief executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, commented: “The Anti-Doping Review shows the strong performance of the programme despite the restrictions and challenges faced by all parties as a result of Covid-19. This is testament to the commitment of Sport Ireland staff, sample collection personnel, the national governing bodies of sport and the athletes to ensure that our athletes compete clean.

“Unfortunately, the high standards of governance and transparency we see in Irish sport are not evident in all countries and we continue to fight the case for stronger governance and oversight across the global anti-doping system. Athletes worldwide need to have the confidence that they are competing on a fair, level and transparent playing field; and we support them fully.”

Dr. Una May, director of participation and ethics with Sport Ireland, acknowledged the many organisations involved in the anti-doping activities.

She said: “Sport Ireland believes that an athlete’s first experience of anti-doping should be through education and not doping control. Despite the ongoing restrictions in 2020, education continued to be a priority as 6,544 athletes and athlete support personnel were educated through face-to-face session (before the pandemic began) and subsequently through online education sessions and e-learning. This is an increase on the 2019 figures and is testament to the commitment to anti-doping education.

“We also made considerable progress in the development of the new anti-doping education plan, which will be fully compliant with WADA’s new International Standard for Education, and aim to launch this in 2021.”