Anti-doping testing is an extremely important part of every elite athlete’s career. It’s an athlete’s opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to clean sport, hold themselves and others accountable, and work together with those who strive to ensure a level playing field.
Given the importance of testing, there are many international rules outlined by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI) that ensure the sample collection process is fair, consistent, and effective. While the ISTI harmonizes many components of the testing process, athletes should be aware that they will see minor differences across DCOs, testing agencies, and locations.
Athletes are also afforded numerous rights under the ISTI, and USADA encourages athletes to exercise those rights so that they feel safe, informed, and respected during the testing process.
To help athletes exercise their rights, USADA has identified three questions that athletes should ask during every test.
ASK: Who is testing me?
Upon notification that they’ve been selected for testing, athletes should ask to see the credentials of the Doping Control Officer (DCO) conducting the test. Athletes have the right to know and confirm the identity of anyone entering their homes or other spaces, interacting with their families, and collecting a sample.
USADA DCOs carry badges, wear USADA polos, and are pictured on the USADA website. Keep in mind that DCOs working for other sample
collection agencies may not have these same identification protocols.
If it’s a USADA DCO conducting the test, the DCO will show the athlete their USADA badge upon notifying the athlete, as well as a form stating that they are authorized to conduct the test. Athletes can also use the USADA website to confirm that the person initiating a test is in fact a USADA DCO. It’s also worth noting that every USADA DCO and chaperone is background checked, SafeSport certified, and undergoes thorough training and re-certification.
ASK: What agency sent the Doping Control Officer?
Along with checking the credentials of the DCO, athletes should determine what organizations are involved in the test session. This information will help athletes identify where they should direct questions or concerns during and/or after the test is completed.
For any given test, there can be up to three organizations involved, including the organization that requested the test, the sample collection agency collecting the test, and the results management authority that will receive and process the test result.
The number of organizations involved varies in part because tests may be collected on behalf of other Anti-Doping Organizations (International
Federations, National Anti-Doping Organizations, WADA) due to athletes’ locations, staffing, and other factors. More specifically, USADA DCOs may conduct a test on behalf of USADA, or on behalf of another agency that is requesting the test, such as the International Federation for your sport. If you are subject to testing in an international location, USADA may engage a local sample collection agency, such as that country’s national anti-doping organization, to collect a sample on our behalf.
Athletes should also expect to see variability in the names and types of documents that identify the organizations involved in the test. For example, USADA DCOs will carry a document called the Letter of Authority, which identifies the organization that requested the test, the sample collection agency conducting the test, and the organization responsible for the results management process. Athletes can request to see the form if it’s not presented upon notification.
ASK: How will the results be shared with me?
Many athletes are most concerned with when and how the results of their test will be shared with them. If, and when, the results of a test are shared with an athlete varies based on the organization with results management authority. The WADA Code does not require that athletes be notified of a negative test result, so an athlete may never receive any documentation or communication about a clean test.
If USADA is responsible for the results management process, we will provide notification of the test result, whether adverse (positive) or clean (negative), to the athlete. The athlete will be notified by email, using the address provided during the test session and recorded on the Doping Control Official Record. This email notification will include instructions on how to access the official results letter through the athlete’s USADA Athlete Express online account. When USADA is the organization processing the test result, athletes will generally receive their results within six to eight weeks.
During every test, USADA DCOs will inform athletes that a link to an Athlete Evaluation Form will be available at the bottom of the email they receive after testing. The DCO will also ask the athlete if they have comments or concerns and document any feedback on the official doping control paperwork.
For additional questions about testing, contact USADA’s Athlete Services Team at athleteexpress@USADA.org or call (719) 785-2000.