WADA has reported its highest testing figures in a year ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has published its global testing figures for March 2021, showing its highest monthly samples since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020.

During that month, 22,649 samples were collected by 145 Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs).

WADA announced that the number of out-of-competition samples in the first three months of 2021 was higher than the same period in 2019 too.

It attributed this return to normal levels of out-of-competition sample collections to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in many nations, as well as the strict protocols that are now in place for collecting samples that were not yet devised early in the pandemic.

WADA added that in-competition sample levels were still very low due to the lack of sporting events taking place so far in 2021, much like 2020.

Around 45 to 50 per cent of samples come from in-competition.

"WADA’s number one priority remains public safety," said WADA President Witold Bańka.

"The anti-doping community is getting through this pandemic and making sure that the system is returning to full power as quickly and safely as possible. 

WADA's out-of-competition testing figures returned to normal levels despite the coronavirus pandemic ©WADA
WADA's out-of-competition testing figures returned to normal levels despite the coronavirus pandemic ©WADA

"WADA is monitoring the integrity of anti-doping testing worldwide in light of the pandemic and is providing support and advice to ADOs and athletes on an ongoing basis.

"Out-of-competition testing is now fully back. 

"In fact, there were 2,000 more such tests carried out in March 2021 than in the same month in 2019. 

"This is a tribute to the hard work, dedication and ingenuity of ADOs, and WADA wishes to commend them and athletes for the commitment and flexibility that they have shown throughout the pandemic.

"Of course, it is not all about testing. 

"As the global anti-doping system continues to reopen, the Athlete Biological Passport is a key tool, as is long-term sample storage, education and intelligence and investigations. 

"As we look ahead to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, WADA is doing everything it can to encourage and support ADOs worldwide to use all tools at their disposal in order to ensure the best possible anti-doping programmes."

In the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, WADA is working with the International Testing Agency, which is working on behalf of the International Olympic Committee to make sure all athletes competing at the Games are subject to a suitable level of testing.