Drug testing for athletes

Any member of an organised sports structure could theoretically be tested for doping at any stage. It is a scourge in sports that must be battled against on an on-going basis. The down side of this, is that it makes it tricky for an honest athlete to get it right. You need to be careful about medication and supplements, checking that they do not contain banned substances.

The reality is that testing is expensive and therefore has become pretty targeted. So the following groups of athletes are much more likely to get tested:

1. Athletes that represent the country

2. Participants in high risk sports (for example sporting codes where it is acknowledged that the use of drugs is more prevalent)

3. Athletes that participate in international, national (or high profile) competitions, especially those athletes achieving “podium finishes”

So, if you are a member of the local tennis club down the road, and you play socially on a Saturday afternoon, or your child of 8 participates at the local gymnastics club, this is not really a concern for you! But once your child starts competing at a higher level (especially national and international), or their sport of choice is a recognised high risk sport, then the chances of being tested increase.

This document outlines the process that is followed when testing is done. We hope that it helps you prepare your child for what to expect if they are tested, especially if they have started competing at a pretty high level.


The 11 Stages of Doping Control

01 Doping Control

Your urine and/or blood can be collected anytime and anywhere for doping control

If you are an athlete registered as a member of a Sporting Federation you can be tested. As a member of a club you are automatically a member of a provincial federation, therefore a member of a national federation, and therefore a member of an international federation! It is part of the deal you sign up for when you join a formal sporting structure. This testing could happen at a sports event, or they might even come looking for you at home or your training facility (but this is really aimed at elite athletes).

02 Athlete Selection

You will be notified by a doping control officer (DCO) or chaperone about your selection for doping control. You will be asked to sign a form confirming that you understand your rights and responsibilities. The DCO should show the athlete official identification and the authority under which the sample is to be collected.

It is so important to make sure that minors or intellectually impaired athletes are accompanied by a parent or guardian (this could be a coach or team manager) throughout the process. This adult should stay with the child from the point of notification by a DCO, right until the very end, and even when they go into the toilet to pass the sample. It is important for both the child/athlete and guardian to know the rights and responsibilities of an athlete with regards to drug free sport.

03 Report Station

You will report to the doping control station as soon as possible. The athlete will be asked to provide identification and will be given the opportunity to hydrate. Athletes are responsible for what they decide to drink. They may drink their own beverage or choose from a selection of sealed, caffeine-free, non-alcoholic beverages supplied.

If an athlete has to, for example, swim another race very soon, or attend to a medal presentation ceremony or media interview, the DCO will understand and allow you to report for your actual test after these happen. But the reasons must be valid, and the DCO will stay with the athlete the whole time to make sure that all is above board by the time the athlete reports for testing.

04 Choose Vessel

You will choose a collection vessel from the selection provided. The athlete should maintain control of the vessel at all times.

You must check that they are nicely sealed, just to make sure that no contamination could have happened. Also, remember to hang onto that vessel. Do not let anyone take it from you, or let is out of your sight, until the end of the process when you hand it over.

05 & 06 Provide Sample

· A minimum amount of 90ml of urine will need to be provided

· You will disrobe from knees to navel and from your hands to elbow to provide an unobstructed view of the passing of the sample

· A DCO or chaperone of the same gender will observe the urine leaving your body

· Minors or athletes with a disability may also have their representative present in the washroom, but this representative is not permitted to view the provision of the sample.

So this is the not so nice bit, where you actually have to wee in front of the DCO. Unfortunately it is part of the deal. If you refuse to do this, it could be construed as a positive test! It is probably a good idea to chat to your children about this in advance, and try to prevent it from becoming a big issue.

Also, you may not feel like you need a wee right at that time. It is ok to sit at the doping control station until you are ready. They have sealed drinks for you to drink, just to help the process along. It is probably a good idea for the adult to make sure that they don’t leave the child alone at this stage if possible. It can create some anxiety, and a little company and support is probably appropriate.

07 Split the Sample

Choose a sample collection kit from the selection provided. Split the sample in the A & B bottles. Pour urine up to the line in the B bottle first. Next, fill the A bottle and leave a small portion in the collection vessel.

You are doing this as it is important to have a back-up sample. Let’s say your test is positive (they test only the A sample first), you could ask for the B sample to be tested as well. It sounds a bit complicated, but remember, a DCO is with you through the whole process. Athletes should feel free to ask for help regarding the process to make sure they get it right.

08 Seal the Sample

Seal the A and the B bottles

The athlete’s representative should also make sure that the bottles are properly sealed.

09 Specific Gravity

The DCO will measure the specific gravity of the sample to ensure it is not too diluted to analyse. If it is too dilute, you may be required to provide additional samples.

So this sounds a bit like a biology class! You just need to know if the sample is ok, or if you need to go again. Remember if you do need to provide another sample, you can take time, have a few drinks and get to the point where you are ready for to go to the toilet again!

10 Sign the Form

You will complete the doping control form by:

· providing personal information

· noting any substances you may be taking: prescription medication, over the counter medication or supplements

· noting concerns or comments, if you have any, about the doping control

· confirming the information, recorded numbers and sample code are correct

· signing and receiving your copy of the doping control form

It is so important that the adult with your child is clued up on the process, so that he/she can ensure that the process is fair and appropriate. If you feel that there was anything wrong or unfair about the process, you must note it on the form.

Remember also, that by listing substances, medication etc. on this form, you are not exonerated! So for example, let’s say your child is using a prohibited substance for legitimate medical reasons, and you have not obtained  therapeutic use exemption (TUE), but you declare it during the testing process. It is a banned substance, and if your test is positive, you can still be held to account. Saying you declared it on the form is not an acceptable excuse.

11 Sample Analysis

Samples will be sent to a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory in strict confidentiality and will be tracked to ensure their security.

Your A sample will be analysed and your B sample will be securely stored for further testing if required. The laboratory will send the results to the responsible anti-doping organisation and WADA.

If a test is positive, the anti-doping agency in the country (in our case the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport) will be notified. They then notify the relevant Federation, which is expected to deal with it and report back.

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