[Editor’s Note:] This article is the second in a five-part series about how the mountain, ultra and trail (MUT) running community has been affected by athlete doping and drug testing. This timely topic was researched by professional trail runner Tayte Pollmann and includes his personal experience as well as input from other top athletes and authorities in the anti-doping industry.
Part 1 – Clean Sport and Mountain, Ultra & Trail (MUT) Running
Part 2 – WADA / USADA, the anti-doping gold standard
Part 3 – Lower cost, custom testing services & race director experiences (coming soon)
Part 4 – Out-of-competition testing & US athlete experiences (coming soon)
Part 5 – Non-WADA compliant athlete testing programs (coming soon)
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was created in 1999 in response to the growing doping problem in professional road cycling. Since then, WADA has become the world’s leading force in anti-doping efforts and is funded by governments and sports organizations across the globe. Its primary activities include “scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) – the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries.”
WADA’s “Code” includes the list of all banned substances WADA tests for, which includes many performance enhancing drugs such as EPO and steroids. The Olympics and all International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) events, including mountain, ultra and trail running world championships, adhere to the Code.
WADA testing is recognized as the highest standard of drug testing in the world because of its thorough sample collection, quality labs, and certified doping control officers. It also contributes to scientific research on doping, Code compliance monitoring, athlete outreach, education, and cooperation with law enforcement. WADA’s extensive legal teams and affiliations with government sponsored testing agencies worldwide make it possible for WADA to enforce athlete bans and to provide an appeal process.
WADA’s Six Steps of Drug Testing are: Athlete Selection, Athlete Notification, Sample Collection, Sample Analysis, Results Management and Adjudication. Let’s look at each of them more detail:
WADA can select athletes for in-competition and out-of-competition testing. An athlete is selected for testing by one of three ways: random selection, by finishing position, or “by being selected for a particular reason.”
For both in-competition and out-of-competition testing, the notification step is the same. A certified doping control officer (DCO) must first show their DCO accreditation to the athlete. The athlete’s rights and responsibilities in the doping control process are then explained by the officer and the athlete will be asked to sign a form. After the notification, the athlete must report immediately to the doping control station. There may be valid reasons to ask for a delay, such as attending a medal ceremony, press conference, or medical treatment. A chaperone escorts the athlete from the notification to the doping control station.
Firstly, the DCO officers will ask for a valid ID to confirm the athlete’s identity. The athlete will then be requested to provide one of more urine or blood samples. A DCO will stay with the athlete and witness the passing of the sample. The only exception is with minor athletes (under the age of 18), where the DCO will accompany the athlete to the washroom but will not witness the passing of the sample. The athlete will then be asked to divide the sample into A and B bottles and seal them. Throughout the process, the athlete will be the only one to handle the samples, unless the athlete requires assistance. The athlete will then be asked to sign the doping control form. The form and samples are sent to a WADA accredited laboratory. Athletes have the right to have a representative present with them at the sample collection.
Once the samples arrive at the accredited laboratory, the A-sample will be analyzed. The B-Sample is stored away in case of an inverse result of the first and will be used to confirm the result.
Results Management and Adjudication:
The signatories of WADA, the International Sports Federations (IFs) and National Anti-Doping Agencies (NADOs), are the organizations directly involved with the results management and issuing of athlete sanctions and bans. WADA will receive a copy of inverse findings and monitor the IFs or NADO to ensure proper implementation of athletes’ sanctions and accordance to the Code. The respective IFs and NADOs are given some flexibility to decide their sanctions.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency, the NADO for the United States, outlines 4-year and 2-year athlete sanctions specified in the USADA Protocol, Article 10.2. There are guidelines for lifetime bans and for how to increase or decrease the sanctions. USADA also outlines ways protections for athletes, such a with the “No Fault or Negligence” clause, found in Article 10.4. This clause gives athletes to have their ineligibility eliminated in cases where “he or she bears no fault or negligence”, for example, if the athlete could prove there was sabotage by a competitor.
Learn even more about WADA’s role in Results Management.
United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)
The United States Anti-Doping Agency is a National Anti Doping Organization (NADO) which oversees performance enhancing drug-testing in US competitions and of US athletes. USADA is a signatory of WADA’s Code, which means they adhere the same standards of WADA testing and help establish WADA’s universalize doping protocol.
USADA tests, therefore, have the highest standard of testing. USADA typically conducts tests at many track & field, race walking and road running events, but starting last year for the first time USADA conducted tests at USA Track & Field’s MUT national championships. The fees for this testing were covered by USA Track & Field which will fund even more unannounced tests at upcoming MUT national championships.
Inside the drug testing experience at USATF MUT national championships:
Six U.S. athletes were subject to USADA testing after the Loon Mountain Race / USATF Mountain Running Championships in July of 2018. Those athletes were Joseph Gray, Andy Wacker, David Fuentes, Allie MacLaughlin, Addie Bracy and Annie Bersagel; all of whom went on to compete at the World Mountain Running Championships.
In November 2018 Anthony Costales, Andy Wacker, Tara Richardson and Rachel Drake were tested at the Moab Trail Marathon / USATF Trail Marathon Championships. Nancy Hobbs spoke with Costales who shared his experience being selected, notified, and providing a sample for testing:
[Nancy] What did it feel like getting called to testing?
[Anthony] I was excited, I have never been tested before.
[Nancy] Did you have a chaperone?
[Anthony] Yes I was escorted through the whole process…I was not alone ever.
[Nancy] Can you describe your experience in the race’s testing facility?
[Anthony] The process was totally fair. I did not have an ID on me so they had me do a mugshot holding a whiteboard with my personal information on it after which I had a few forms to sign. USADA officials watched as I took the sample and they instructed me about how to split up and package the A&B sample. USADA even had a backup system in case the samples broke in transit. This would allow them to still get the test. I thought that was cool.
[Nancy] How did you feel about the handling of your sample?
[Anthony] I felt like it was safe and packaged in a way they could not be tampered with. At no time did anyone except me handle my samples prior to being packaged and sealed.
[Nancy] How did you feel about the people who conducted the testing?
[Anthony] They were professional and explained every step of the process.
[Nancy] Would you like more races to conduct anti-doping tests?
[Anthony] Yes, I think any races with prizes money or a national championship race needs to take the responsibility to test.
Last month at the FOURmidable 50K / USATF 50 km Trail Championship race winner Tim Tollefson was one of the six runners tested on site by the US Anti-Doping Agency and he applauded the inclusion of drug testing. “It’s wonderful. It’s a step in the right direction to promote clean sport. By having testing, it clarifies that it is important to us in this community.”
To date there have been no positive test results from any of the USATF MUT championships listed above. In the event of a positive test, USADA would post it on a web page with “a listing of athletes that have received a sanction for a doping violation under the athlete’s international federation rules and/or the USOC Anti-Doping Policies.” Find that list here.
Look for the following articles in our five-part series of anti-doping articles coming soon:
Part 3 – Lower cost, custom testing services & race director experiences
Part 4 – Out-of-competition testing & US athlete experiences
Part 5 – Non-WADA compliant athlete testing programs