GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - An “intelligence-led” doping probe prevented three Australians and an undisclosed number of other athletes from competing at the Commonwealth Games but no positive tests have been recorded on the Gold Coast to date, organizers said on Thursday.
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) chief David Sharpe said a preventative task force funded to the tune of millions of dollars by the Australian government had conducted tests on 2,600 local athletes and 500 from overseas.
Sharpe said he was not able to name the three Australian athletes caught cheating by the task force and said the number of athletes from other countries was “less than 20”.
“We’ve seen the scandals over the last 18 months, which is why it was important that we delivered a program that removes cheats before they arrived at the Games,” Sharpe told a news conference.
“If you don’t, clean athletes might not have their chance to stand on the podium and hear their national anthem.”
Organizers would not disclose the number of tests that were being conducted on the 6,000 athletes at the Games but Sharpe did confirm that there had been no adverse analytical findings.
“I can confirm there have been no positive tests to this date,” he said.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) will follow the lead of the Olympics movement by retaining samples for future testing for the first time in the Gold Coast, said Dr Mani Jegathesan of the Commonwealth Games Medical Commission.
Sharpe, a former policeman, said the intelligence-led approach was a far more efficient way of combating cheating than blanket testing.
“For mine, if we do less tests that are better intelligence-led, we get better results,” he added.
Botswanan former world champion Amantle Montsho, who served a two-year ban after failing a doping test at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, won gold in the women’s 400 meters in the athletics on Wednesday night.
CGF chief David Grevemberg said that despite the encouraging results, there was no room for complacency in the battle against doping.
“This is not a quick fix, this is the most robust that we have been in preparation for a Games but we need now to continue that fight outside Games’ time,” he said.
“Whether that is creating more deterrents or taking more preventative measures to ultimately alter behavior and let cheats know there is not place for them at the Commonwealth Games.
“We’re absolutely committed to playing a larger role as this continues to move forward.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Peter Rutherford