by Ian Marshall
Nowadays, a regular feature in major sporting events, 30 years ago, doping control was very much in its infancy; in those days, the World Anti-Doping Agency had not yet been established!
“This was quite an advanced effort for international sports federations; so, we prepared the regulations and carried out all the anti-doping tests by ourselves”, recalled Dr. Matsuo. “Under the direction of ITTF President, Ichiro Ogimura; I conducted the anti-doping tests in this event (1991 WTTC in Chiba) with Dr. François Kahn and Dr. Michael Scott of the ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee.
Later in 1999, the World Anti-Doping Agency was established, a direct result of police searches finding the existence of organized doping at the 1998 Tour de France. Following a meeting staged in Lausanne, the International Olympic Committee issued the Lausanne Declaration on Doping in Sport; at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games an independent international anti-doping agency commenced operation.
One year later at the 2001 World Championships in Osaka; Dr. Shiro Matsuo, was the lead doping control officer, the year in which the Japan Anti-Doping Agency was established.
Ever more experienced in the field, commencing in 2008 in the Chinese city of Guangzhou until 2019 Budapest, without fail, whether the World Championships or World Team Championships, Dr. Matsuo has been the ITTF representative for doping control.
“Anti-doping testing systems in each country were becoming gradually well-organized by the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency” explained Dr. Matsuo. “Accordingly, my role changed from being a working member to a supervisor; since I knew well about table tennis and had many experiences in anti-doping, I gave local Doping Control Officers advice.”
Recommendations not only for those conducting examinations, he also afforded support for sportsmen and sportswomen, for whom many the subject of doping control was a new experience.
“It is important to think about the performance of the athletes first; the World Championships is a most valuable event for all table tennis players”, added Dr. Matsuo. “Anti-doping tests should not give a bad influence on performance; for that I expended much energy.”
Most knowledgeable, it was very much to Dr. Matsuo the International Table Tennis Federation looked for leadership; from 2008 to the present day, he has occupied the role of Chief Anti-Doping Officer for the ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee.
“I co-operated in the creation and revision of ITTF Anti-Doping regulations, I gave advice about the punishment to regulation offenders”, continued Dr. Matsuo. “Also, I gave some educational lectures at workshops which were held during World Championships.”
At the 2015 World Championships in Suzhou, Dr. Matsuo conducted workshops on the subject of Anti-Doping activities within the International Table Tennis Federation and on the changes in the World Anti-Doping Code. Later, at the 2016 World Championships in Kuala Lumpur, he addressed the topic concerning the history of doping in table tennis and future ITTF anti-doping activities.
During this period from 2013 to 2018, Dr. Matsuo was Chair of the ITTF Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) panel, examining no less than 55 applications; a change of policy he became a member of the International Testing Agency (ITA) Therapeutic Use Exemption panel from 2019 to the present day.
“Since ITTF outsourced business related to anti-doping to the International Testing Agency, I came to take charge of TUE examinations not in ITTF but in ITA”, explained Dr. Matsuo. “I examined over 100 TUE applications in two years; I dealt with applications from players other than table tennis because of the conflict of interest.”
In addition, during this period, from 2014 to 2019, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the horizon, Dr. Matsuo was Chair of the JTTA-ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee international meetings.
“I wanted the sports science of table tennis to develop further. I organized international meetings in Tokyo”, stressed Dr. Matsuo. “The ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee members, alongside Japanese researchers, held six joint meetings from 2014 to 2019 in Tokyo; they ended in success and realised many results.”
The success of the initiative pays great tribute to the now 65-year-old, born in Sapporo but now resident in Tokyo; the dedication to duty sets an example to all.
“I would like to express the deepest appreciation to ITTF Executive Committee Vice President Masahiro Maehara; I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for him”, reminisced Dr Matsuo. “He gave me a chance to work for the ITTF and always gave me good advice; I would like to thank him for all the support and encouragement he has given me in the last 30 years.”
Delighted for the opportunities afforded Dr. Matsuo is grateful for the support received over the years.
“I would also like to express my gratitude to Professor Miran Kondric and the ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee members”, concluded Dr. Matsuo. “It has been a pleasure working as a member of the committee, I want to wish everyone the best luck for the future.”
Now, for Dr. Matsuo, who has played a most significant role in maintaining the image of table tennis as being one of the cleanest sports of all, it is retirement. He intends to spend more time with his family; the whole table tennis world wishes him well.