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Covid vaccines won’t lead to athletes failing dope tests, safe to use: WADA

Boost for Indian Olympians too as two vaccines used in India also 'has no specific concerns' says Anti-Doping watchdog

Written by Shivani Naik |
Updated: February 26, 2021 7:41:00 am
Covid Vaccine for Athletes, Covid vaccine for sportspersons, WADA on Covid 19 vaccineA majority of the 91 Tokyo-bound athletes fear their preparations will be severely impacted. (File)

Tokyo Olympics-bound Indian athletes who were apprehensive about whether the contents of Covid-19 vaccines were compliant with anti-doping measures, can now breathe easy.

Terming it a highly unlikely event that an ingredient turns potentially problematic, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have confirmed there are no specific concerns about any contents in approved vaccines.

Responding to queries from The Indian Express, the WADA spokesman clarified, “As it relates to the SARS-Cov-2 vaccines that have so far been approved for human use, WADA has no specific concerns as they relate to the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods. Athletes can be confident that WADA will continue to monitor all available information and advise them and other members of the anti-doping community in the extremely unlikely event an ingredient of any approved vaccine might be problematic.”

WADA was also responding to specific queries about the India-made recombinant, inactivated-virus vaccines that received restricted use approval from the Indian drug regulator.

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The two vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorisation by the Drug Controller General of India are the Covidshield, manufactured by Serum Institute of India and that has been developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech.

This clears up the road for Indian athletes to be administered any of the two vaccines available in India.

The WADA clearance also applies to the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as the Russian Sputnik V, which like AstraZeneca’s is similarly an adenoviral vector vaccine.

News reports from Russian agency TASS earlier this week had reported, “(Permitted to use) Russian Sputnik V vaccine as well as three vaccines developed in the US, two vaccines developed in the UK as well as one German and one Indian vaccine.”

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on the sidelines of a Fit India event earlier this month had said, “The government’s policy is very clear. First of all, the vaccine will be provided to warriors… the medical and security people. Our Olympic-bound athletes and their trainers will be provided priority in our ministry but overall priority is set by Ministry of Health,” Sports secretary Ravi Mital at the same event had elaborated, “They will all be vaccinated before they go for the Olympics, whoever goes. We will also take into account the time between two doses and everything else.”

The International Olympic Committee has said that vaccines will not be obligatory, but will be encouraged for everyone heading to Tokyo. John Coates, IOC vice president and head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games, speaking to reporters in Brisbane about vaccines was reported on Thursday saying, “Not compulsory, we can’t do that. But it is certainly being encouraged and the IOC has an agreement with Covax (WHO’s vaccine-sharing scheme) where it’s helping to facilitate the distribution of vaccines.”

WADA was also asked by this paper if a specific content like Adenosine in the drugs (eg. HCQ, Faripiravir or Remdesivir) used in the course of treatment of more severe cases could show up as a positive on an anti-doping test.

“Adenosine is not a problematic substance in sport and is not prohibited,” WADA responded.

Earlier in December, WADA had spoken about following the vaccine developments closely, with respect to their exact composition.

“WADA has a memorandum of understanding with various pharmaceutical companies, as well as that industry’s representative body, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA). WADA is in communication with them on this matter in order to ascertain the exact composition of the various vaccines currently being made available. WADA will continue to communicate with athletes and other stakeholders as relevant information becomes available,” the spokesman reiterated.

On a question if athletes would be required to keep a prior Covid positive report or a list of drugs used in treatment (for both mild & slightly elevated infections) or any disclosure about any past Covid infection, WADA said, “That would be a question for the IOC.”

WADA also cleared the air on if these vaccines could impact the Therapeutic Use Exemptions availed by some athletes. “Don’t see a dilemma. If an athlete has a genuine medical need to take a substance or use a method that is on the Prohibited List, then they can apply for a TUE. The TUE system is a tried and trusted mechanism to allow athletes, under certain strict conditions, to receive essential medical treatment without breaking anti-doping rules,” WADA said.

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