[Editor’s Note:] This article is the third 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
Part 4 – Out-of-competition testing & US athlete experiences (coming soon)
Part 5 – Non-WADA compliant athlete testing programs (coming soon)
In addition to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) administered athlete testing programs, athletes and race directors may encounter other testing organizations or health screening programs. These organizations often provide their services at lower costs than WADA complaint tests, which can make them attractive options for smaller races looking for a custom anti-doping program.
Race directors should also be aware of the limitations of these testing alternatives. Cheaper alternatives are often not testing for all substances on WADA’s prohibited list and/or they do not contain the same notification, privacy or adjudication processes included in WADA compliant tests. In short, a cheaper anti-doping program is a less comprehensive program.
Some alternatives like ITRA’s Quartz health policy appears to be anti-doping program but is not connected to WADA or National Athletic Federation (NAF) anti-doping efforts.
Knowing the differences between the various testing and screening organizations will help race directors and athletes understand which organizations are best for their needs and budget. Listed below are several drug testing organizations and health screening programs athletes may encounter at mountain, ultra and trail races.
International Doping Tests & Management AB IDTM is a leading global provider of anti-doping services and a quality assurer for both Olympic and non-Olympic sports. With a global network of Doping Control Officers and Blood Collection Officers, IDTM has been providing anti-doping services for International Federations, National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs), and independent sporting organizations and events since 1992.
Drug Free Sport
Drug Free Sport is a global leader in the development and administration of technology-focused, customized anti-doping testing and education programming for professional, emerging and amateur sport organizations. Drug Free Sport has been helping athletes maximize their innate potential in sport since 1999. Drug Free Sport has previously conducted anti-doping tests at ATRA member Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.
Any Lab Test Now USA
Any Lab Test Now is a national testing service with over 170 locations across the country. Their mission is to provide affordable testing to families or companies who require work-related drug testing, such as for the testing of airplane pilots and train drivers. They partner with “major, high-quality labs throughout the country” and are SAMHSA certified, which means their labs are held to the highest standard in the country. The 2018 Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent used Any Lab Test Now to test athletes for select (but not all) performance enhancing drugs found on WADA’s list of banned substances.
Clearidium an independent anti-doping organization based in Copenhagen, Denmark with North American headquarters in Colorado Springs, USA. Clearidium has collected over 10,000 athlete samples in a wide variety of sports. To conduct their testing, they hire professionals, such as “Phlebotomists, Nurses and Doping Control Officers.” Clearidium was hired by the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run to test athletes in 2017.
Health Screening Programs
What sets these programs apart from those mentioned above, is that they do not conduct WADA-certified anti-doping tests and have no connection to national athletics federations (NAFs).
The International Trail Running Association created the Quartz program to “protect runners’ health and contribute to doping-free sport.” The program conducts health tests at hundreds of events worldwide and also offers testing for a fee to both recreational and elite athletes. Athletes whose testing result is considered abnormal will receive an announcement from Quartz of the “No Start Rule” and not be permitted to race. There is no appeal process for athletes given this “no start” designation.
The Quartz program has recently partnered with several brands, including Hoka One One and Salomon, and its tests are currently conducted at each of Salomon’s popular Golden Trail Series events. Quartz does not specifically test for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), but an abnormal result from Quartz testing could indicate PED use. Learn more about Quartz’s biological test results HERE.
Although an athlete with an abnormal test result from Quartz may receive the penalty of the “No Start Rule,” Quartz does not have the legal authority to ban the athlete from competitions not affiliated with the Quartz program. An athlete who receives the penalty of the “No Start Rule” may still compete in national or world championship events because Quartz does not hold the legal authority to administer such bans. The one exception to this is at the Trail World Championships which is organized in cooperation with the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) who operate under the patronage of the IAAF.
Currently, WADA and its compliant National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) are the only organization with the legal authority to administer athlete bans or other sentences. Quartz testing is not affiliated with WADA and its member NADOs. Any test conducted by Quartz receiving a positive result for a substance on WADA’s prohibited list are not reported to the NADO in the host county of the race. Nor are the results sent to WADA.
Race Director Experiences with Athlete Testing
Karl Meltzer, race director of the Speedgoat 50K, Salt Lake City, UT, said this about his choice to not include drug testing at his event, “It’s a money thing…I’d much rather give the 700 dollars for testing to charity, or to the athletes than WADA.” Meltzer explained there should be more testing, but specified, “The funding to drug test should come from outside the race directors.”
Loon Mountain Race director Paul Kirsch, similarly does not typically provide testing at his event. However, in 2018 USADA administered drug testing at his event, which was paid for by USA Track & Field as the event was a sanctioned national championship. Kirsch said on USADA’s decision to partner with his event, “The testing of six athletes was paid for by USA Track and Field. It was a big step for MUT within the USATF world to get the financial support for testing.”
The Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent media director, Tim Bergsten, considered cost a major part of his decision to use a local Any Lab Test Now location in Colorado Springs near the race start. In my interview with Bergsten, he explained that USADA testing was too costly for his event, and he found Any Lab Test Now to be an affordable and equally professional alternative, “I’d be happy if USADA showed up to my race and took over the testing, but that’s not likely… does that mean I shouldn’t test? No, of course not,” offered Bergsten.
Amy Neary, director of Any Lab Test Now in Colorado Springs, said this on partnering with the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent, “There are so many substances tested by WADA that it makes their testing unattainable from an affordability standpoint for smaller races…We were able to give the race directors the power to decide what they wanted tested and not tested, while maintaining integrity in their race.”
Race directors choosing to use non-WADA compliant testing organizations will avoid the higher costs of WADA administered tests, but will lose WADA’s legal authority. WADA can ensure fair legal consequences for athletes, including internationally recognized bans and appeal process.
Non-WADA compliant testing does not have this same legal authority. Race directors using non-WADA compliant tests cannot report findings of an athlete’s positive test to their national doping organization nor WADA because the testing provider was not WADA compliant. Race directors using non-WADA compliant testing have only the authority to ban athletes from their own events for testing positive.
For race directors looking for a list of athletes currently serving a USADA ban should consult the following WEBSITE.
Look for the following articles in our five-part series of anti-doping articles coming soon:
Part 4 – Out-of-competition testing & US athlete experiences
Part 5 – Non-WADA compliant athlete testing programs