Earlier this month I traveled to the USATF Marathon Trail Championships hosted by the Moab Trail Marathon in the scenic canyon country of Southeast Utah. As a native Utahan, this event has holds a special place in my heart as Moab was my first ever trail marathon when I raced it back in 2015. Instead of racing, this year I attended the Moab Trail Marathon as a volunteer “notifying chaperone” for the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) who were on-site conducting anti-doping tests as part of the national championship.
Keeping our sport clean is something I’m passionate about having written a five-part series of clean sport articles designed to help educate trail runners about doping issues, drug testing entities, and testing procedures that exist in Mountain, Ultra, Trail (MUT) running. In this article I write about my experience as a first-time volunteer for USADA and share some reasons for why you should consider supporting USADA’s anti-doping efforts.
What is a Notifying Chaperone?
Volunteering as a notifying chaperone is one of the easiest ways you can help USADA when they conduct drug testing at a trail running event. Before the race, I was a little intimidated and unsure if I was the right person for the job because I had no prior experience with drug testing. However, I discovered it’s actually quite simple, requires little training and is one of the best ways to help USADA officials; especially if they are short-staffed at an event.
The role as notifying chaperone can be filled by anyone over the age of 18 who is willing to commit to the responsibility of notifying athletes that they have been selected for drug testing. Duties include notifying the athlete, recording the time of notification and escorting them to the drug testing facility when they are ready to provide their sample. USADA doping control officers (DCO’s) and other officials rely on notifying chaperones to monitor the selected athletes, so that they can then conduct the actual testing, prepare biological samples and complete the necessary paperwork. For a full list of notifying chaperone duties check out page eight of their Site Coordinator Handbook.
Increase USADA’s Presence in Trail Running
As I explained in part three of my clean sport article series, there are many different drug-testing entities operating in MUT running, each with their own unique goals and methodologies. Unlike all other organizations conducting anti-doping tests in US trail running only USADA is a signatory to the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) code. The WADA Code is the document that harmonizes regulations regarding anti-doping in sport across all sports and all countries of the world. The Code provides a framework for anti-doping policies, rules, and regulations for sport organizations and public authorities. USADA is the national anti-doping organization (NADO) for Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American, and Parapan American sports in the United States. The Boston and Chicago marathons, as well as several other larger running events use USADA testing.
Although USADA testing might not be affordable for smaller trail race directors to provide at their events, it is still worth reaching out to your local race directors to see if they have contacted USADA. At the very least, starting a conversation with USADA officials can help race directors better understand the benefits of quality testing programs and consider investing in them. Race directors may also consider sending out a questionnaire to their participants asking if they would be willing to pay a higher entry fee to cover the cost of USADA testing.
Get Educated On Clean Sport
One of the best resources for athletes and event directors looking to get educated on clean sport is the USADA website. There are resources including anti-doping education, prohibited substance list, the effects and health risks of abusing performance enhancing drugs, marijuana FAQs, supplement guide and much more. Getting educated is the first step to establishing a clean sport culture in trail running.
Support True Sport
USADA’s True Sport initiative “supports athletes, parents, and coaches by partnering with organizations throughout the country to promote positive youth sport experience.” Supporting True Sport will help introduce youth to clean sport initiatives, as well as educate on important topics such as nutrition, teamwork, and character building. Get access to lessons and receive training and coaching certification on the USADA website.