UTMB® 2018: 10 years actions to preserve the health of the runners and prevent doping. 

Back in 2008, the UTMB® races were the first event at which program QUARTZ was implemented. 

The UTMB® 2018 marks 10 years of active progress in collaboration with the runners, protecting runners’ health and contributing to doping-free sport. These two objectives have been brought together under the title of "Health Policy".

What is a health policy?

The ITRA health policy rests on 4 pillars: scientific and medical research, runner safety, the education of those involved in trail running, and the QUARTZ program.

It is the QUARTZ program that has been implemented at the UTMB® for the past 10 years. Organised on a voluntary basis from 2008 to 2010, it became compulsory in 2011.

health policy
Patrick Basset, President of Ultra Sports Science, talking about the QUARTZ Program with the Spain Team in the 2018 Trail World Championships. 

Designed and managed by the association Athletes For Transparency (AFT), the health policy is funded by the Ultra Sports Science (USS) Foundation and offers a range of services for event organizers, for athletes and for medical personnel – the object of the latter being to protect the health of athletes and to contribute to a sport without doping.

What actually is the QUARTZ program?

It is for all those taking part in the UTMB®.

Firstly, before the race the elite athletes (identified by their ITRA Performance Index) provide samples of blood, hair, urine and saliva for testing...

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Ludovic Pommeret, from the Hoka One One Team, in the Health Policy one day before TDS

The health of the individual athletes can be assessed from the results of these tests and the athletes can be cleared as fit to start.  Profiles are established on the basis of the test results, as follows: 
  • Normal profile:  no medical risk is identified;
  • Atypical profile:  biological values are outside of laboratory norms but do not indicate any major risk to the health of the athlete before the competition;
  • Profile with one or more potential medical conditions:  the athlete needs a follow-up medical examination but no major risk to his health before the competition is indicated;
  • Abnormal profile:  an abnormal value or a change is observed and presents a major health risk and that may require the application of a "No start rule".

The analysis of the profiles requires some expertise

In the case of an abnormal profile, the Medical Commission, comprising a doctor, an anti-doping expert and the medical director of the race, meets the athlete for further discussion and attempts to identify the cause of the problem.

An "abnormal" profile may result from an injury, an illness or overtraining or from taking a (prohibited) substance.  The "No start rule" may then be pronounced on health grounds.  The athlete will not be allowed to start the race.

If the Medical Commission finds evidence of (a) prohibited substance(s) in the results of biological tests, it can, and indeed should, transmit the data to the competent the anti-doping authorities.

The 2018 modus operandi of the QUARTZ programme on the UTMB®:

Identifying the elite athletes: 
  1. The organizers of the UTMB® have a single list showing all those registered for the races of the UTMB (OCC, CCC, TDS and UTMB),
  2. The women's Performance Indices are increased by 100 points, to men and women runners to be compared at an equal performance level *,
  3. Athletes (men and women combined and all races combined) with an ITRA Performance Index above 820 must report to the pre-race medical screening station when collecting their race bibs.
  4. The first 40 athletes on this list will have had a blood test during the month preceding the event and then a urine test and a HemoCue ** test one or two days before the race.
  5. Runners ranked between 41st and 80th will have had a blood test one or two days before the race.
  6. For the remaining elite athletes, a HemoCue test ** will have been carried out one or two days before the race.
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Ruth Croft, from the Scott Team, during the health policy one day before OCC. 

Inform and educate

Prior to the race, the organizers of the UTMB® requested all runners to update their private and confidential health space on the of SHOL (Sports and Health on Line) platform.  This space is free and can be accessed from the ITRA runner account.

In 2018, for the first time, the UTMB® also implemented a special plan for all runners, in parallel with the programme for elite athletes!

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Loïc Lescouff from the ITRA team, with the athletes to show them how to complete their profile. 

This allows the teams in charge of medical care for the race to consult the health space of a runner at any time and upload information relating to the the care given to the runners during the race.  For example, in the case of a runner who is suffering from bouts of vomiting and who faints at the aid station, the medical teams can use the runner's bib number to consult his health space and check that he is not allergic to any medication they might wish to administer.  Once the runner is back home, he can see that his health space has been updated by medical teams and retains a record of the aid he was given – which he can then pass on to his own doctor.

This is an important development and is in line with a continuous improvement in the services offered to the runners by the UTMB®.
2018, a very positive balance!

Of 169 athletes selected for the program QUARTZ, 39 did not start and 3 were not flagged up when collecting their race bibs.  Of the 127 athletes who did participate in the QUARTZ program at the UTMB® 2018:
  • 120 had a normal profile,
  • 6 had an atypical profile,
  • 1 had a potential medical condition, and
  • (0) the "No start rule" was not pronounced.
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Pierre Sallet, President of the Association Athletes For Transparency with Kilian Jornet one day before UTMB.

Points to remember

The ITRA health policy, and more specifically the QUARTZ program, is a channel for raising runners' awareness of important topics such as self-medication or the effects of the ultra-trail on their body.  The regular and professional monitoring of the athletes' health plays an essential role in preventing medical conditions that are inherent risks in the practice of ultra-endurance sports.

At the same time, however, a major objective of the QUARTZ program is to prevent doping, and anti-doping measures also have a role.  The commitment of the athletes is critical and allows a message to be sent loud and clear to all runners!

* An ITRA Performance Index of 750 points for a female runner is equal 850 points for a man.
** If a test result is not within laboratory norms, a complementary blood test is carried out.
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