21 January 2023



Many will know Andrea EMBER from the IJF World Judo Tour but for those who don’t, Ember is the Anti-Doping Coordinator within the IJF Medical Commission, let’s get to know her a little better.

What path brought you in to this sector?

By degree I am a physical education teacher, sport is in my blood, and I can say that my hobbies are physiology of the human body and linguistics. This combination drove me to understand what doping is and what its consequences are, both bodily and jurisdictionally. When I was appointed to the IJF I was asked if I was a lawyer. I replied that the WADA Code was written for everyone to understand, otherwise we would need a lawyer for every athlete. Well, the Code and its international standards are not a light romance for sure, but there’s one thing everyone should respect them for, when the opponent is cheating, those are the documents that can give back a lost medal.

What kind of challenges do you face in your role? 

Awareness raising. Anti-doping is still a blind spot for many. Athletes are coming from countries with different levels of national anti-doping service, and not all national federations put effort in their anti-doping education or even support whenever an athlete is challenged in this field. Partly because it is IJF’s obligation by the WADA Code and partly because this is what I signed up for, I am currently designing an anti-doping e-course material that will be available for everyone. There will be modules for athletes, coaches, team doctors, national federations. It’s a huge task but I am confident that it is worth the energy. 

Ember was present during the 2019 Mittersill OTC and was invaluable during the camp, giving a seminar for coaches and athletes alike, education is key for the players and those taking care of them.

Andrea EMBER with team Ukraine in 2019, Mittersill. © EJU

We are now in a new year and undoubtedly, with constant development, there is more to learn in terms of anti-doping, and with Ember keen at work to educate all athletes, what can she offer us at this point?

Have there been any major announcements or changes made in the new year? 

There were some changes to the anti-doping rules already in 2021 when the new WADA Code and subsequently the new IJF Anti-doping Rules came into effect. Since then the rules are almost the same, however there are two substantially new element in the International Standard for Testing and Investigation, the introduction of DBS, dry blood spot, sampling and analysis and as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regulation of the virtual sample taking process.

This latter addition explains how sample taking is conducted through video connection, what should the athlete show, who should see what, how the footage should be stored and processed, how the sample is handed to the controllers, etc.

Dry blood spot sampling. © Thea Cowen

DBS is not a new method of blood sampling in the medical world, however it’s standardisation for doping control is a very practical and athlete friendly evolution. It doesn’t replace venous blood sampling yet, though that is the aim to put less burden on all the actors of doping control, mostly the athletes and also the controllers. Soon the IJF Registered Testing Pool members will experience the method at out-of-competition testing.

Some minor new elements, that were also added to the standards, are the clarification points for athletes competing in more than one sport, or regarding the TUE a better explanation on what a retroactive TUE is and how it should be properly processed.

What advice would you give to athletes and coaches?

Play clean, train clean, follow the judo moral code. The beauty of any sports, and it’s more than true to judo where strength and technique meets in the highest level, is physical excellence. Nothing is more disappointing than needing to re-evaluate an outstanding achievement and stained memories of a masterful fight.

Success is better earned. © Gabi Juan

On a practical level I would advise always to be up to date to the rules, including the anti-doping rules, and it’s all aspect. All rules are on the IJF Clean Judo site (https://www.ijf.org/cleanjudo), in collaboration with the International Testing Agency (ITA) we provide regular webinars, as well, about general anti-doping matters and up to date info on any changes, the materials can be found on the ITA Athlete Hub (https://ita.sport/athlete-hub/). If there’s any question about any aspects, I am more than happy to answer them. Anyone can write to [email protected]  

Author: Thea Cowen