Change, Covid-19 and Loss.

It’s the weekend of week 7 of working from home and as I normally do during the weekend I am using the time to tidy up few things in my computer. The last few weeks have brought back lots of nostalgia. Former teammates have had the time to scan old pictures and posted them online, former colleagues and classmates have dug into the box of old photos and shared them, former athletes have been scanning old pictures. All of us have had the time to look back at our lives, reflect on our life journey, revisit the memories and re-connect with old friends.

For me, it has been an interesting time. I left Aspire after six and a half years to start a new role of Executive Director of Research and Scientific Support in Aspetar on the 1st of March and within few days we had to start working from home due to COVID-19. Trying to build relationships and develop the unit is definitively a challenge from behind a PC screen and something requiring a lot of patience and rapid learning. However, so far I am amazed by the resilience of my team and the support of my colleagues and I am looking forward to our return to ‘normality’ hopefully soon. So, my journey continues in Qatar contributing to the vision of Aspire Zone to become World leading in many areas of Sport and Sports Medicine.


The spread of Coronavirus has determined the ‘freezing’ of all sporting activities and has reduced the freedom of movement of everyone. This is an incredible challenge for our World and one that will unfortunately leave scars which will take a long time to heal. As a scientific community, overwhelmed by fake news, dubious scientific claims and unhelpful misinformation, we acted quickly and developed a service to provide scientific evidence to athletes and coaches. We work on this on a daily basis also with external collaborators. I think it is an excellent resource which is growing daily. We wrote a blog article about it published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The link to the main page of the COVID-19 Evidence for Athletes service is here. We have created many infographics/short videos and answered athletes’ questions. If you click on the infographic below you will be able to download it and share it. We have also made the information available in many languages here, and are always looking for collaboration using the open science platform. We all hope this information will be helpful for the sporting community around the World and we plan to use this platform for various topics in the future.

Aspetar COVID-19 Infographic

While all this was happening, one morning I received the sad news that my former colleague and friend Neil Black passed away in the UK. I met Neil for the first time few months after joining the British Olympic Association in 2005. Neil was an excellent physiotherapist at the time and evolved over the years to the roles of head of sports science and then performance director to UK Athletics. I worked with Neil at major events and in preparation for them and was in a lot of meetings and trips also after I left the UK. The last time I saw Neil, it was here during the Doha World Championships.

Neil was an incredibly good physiotherapist, but most of all, he was someone always interested in supporting athletes. He has done a lot for the athletics community because he always cared about the athletes. A very pragmatic thinker, he had deep knowledge about athletics and the world of high performance sport and was one of the few that had the opportunity to live it in different roles (he was a pretty decent athlete too!). I always enjoyed trackside chat with Neil but also working together in working groups, talking/debating at seminars, and chatting at social events. I knew I could always learn something from Neal, I could always ask him for advice and I knew I would always get honest feedback from him as well as respect for my views. I was fortunate to meet you Neil, and I hope I will meet more people like you in the future, rest in peace.