Non-WADA Compliant Athlete Testing Programs (Part 5)

[Editor’s Note:] This article is the last 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
Part 5 – Non-WADA compliant athlete testing programs

As I wrote in part three of this clean sport series of articles, several less expensive and non-WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) compliant testing services and health screening programs exist in mountain, ultra and trail running. Clearidium, Any Lab Test Now, or local testing providers, are some of the non-WADA compliant testing programs an athlete may encounter at mountain, ultra or trail races.

As mentioned previously, ITRA’s Quartz program is a health screening service and should not be mistaken for a robust & complete anti-doping program. ITRA Quartz does not test specifically for performance enhancing drugs, although an adverse result in their screening process can indicate PED use. In this case, a “No Start” rule may be applied to an athlete by a race organizer.

These non-WADA compliant organizations offer the benefit of discouraging athletes from doping, however, they do not provide the same services as WADA compliant testing. WADA tests ensure quality drug testing for all substances on WADA’s Prohibited List, internationally recognized athlete sentences and appeal system, and out-of-competition testing. Although non-WADA compliant testing may be a more affordable option for race directors looking to discourage doping, WADA tests remain the universal standard for athlete drug testing. Listed below are factors race directors should consider when deciding which form of testing to choose, or is required, for their events.

The 2018 Loon Mountain Race had WADA compliant anti-doping tests.

ITRA, IAAF or USATF-Sanctioned Event Required Testing
Race directors who partner with ITRA, IAAF or become a USATF-sanctioned event, are required to provide specific WADA or non-WADA certified testing. ITRA partners with races across the globe and requires its events to implement ITRA Quartz health screening procedures. This health screening procedure sometimes takes the place of traditional drug testing at ITRA events.

There are currently over 200 events in 2019 that have partnered with ITRA in North America, and many more events in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The 2019 Trail World Championships, held this past June in Miranda do Corvo, Portugal, partnered with ITRA and implemented ITRA Quartz health screening.

The IAAF and USATF-sanctioned events require WADA-certified testing. The World Mountain Running Championships and World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships administer WADA testing. Nationally sanctioned events, such as the US Mountain Running Championships require WADA testing. Paul Kirsch, race director of the Loon Mountain Race, host of the 2018 US Mountain Running Championships, shared that all costs of the WADA testing for his event were covered by USADA.

Customized Testing Options
Some non-WADA compliant testing services may offer customized testing options to match a race director’s budget. Any Labs Test Now is one such company that has the ability to test for specific substances on WADA’s Prohibited List without requiring race directors to test for the entire list. This allows race directors to lower the cost of testing. Although a customized test may be less expensive, race directors who choose to test for only certain substances on WADA’s Prohibited List may fail to catch dopers in their event. Customized testing does not promote a universal approach of what should be tested for, leading to possible confusion about what athletes can take and need to avoid.

USADA chaperones at the 2019 USATF 50 km Trail Championships.

Legal Authority
WADA tests have legal authority to issue internationally recognized sentences for athletes. Athletes are given the right to a specific appeal process in the case of an adverse result. Non-WADA tests have no such legal authority. A race director may ban athletes from their own events, but cannot stop them from competing in other events. Non-WADA tests don’t provide appeals, which increases the chances of wrongly convicting an athlete. Without legal backing, athletes may also refuse drug tests without consequence.

Out-of-Competition Testing
WADA has a pool of MUT athletes that it draws from regularly to test out-of-competition. Non-WADA tests test only in-competition. Although in-competition tests catch dopers, many athletes and race directors have expressed in part four of this article series why out-of-competition testing is one of the most effective ways to catch the of dopers.