U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

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Adjudication Process

The results management and adjudication process is designed to balance the interest of clean athletes in not competing against another athlete or athletes facing an unresolved doping charge, with the opportunity for athletes and other persons who have been charged with an anti-doping rule violation to have an opportunity for a hearing prior to being declared ineligible to participate in sport. USADA’s adjudication process is compliant with the Ted Stevens Olympic & Amateur Sports Act, the World Anti-Doping Code, and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Anti-Doping Rules, which were approved by the USOPC Athletes’ Advisory Council. Below is a summary of the adjudication process for an anti-doping rule violation. For more detailed information, please read the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing.

Results Management Process

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Independent WADA Laboratories

After an athlete provides a blood and/or urine sample to a doping control or blood collection officer, his or her sample is sent to a WADA-accredited laboratory. A WADA laboratory is compliant with the WADA International Standard for Laboratories, meeting the strictest standards globally. A WADA laboratory receives samples, with no identifying connection to the athletes, removing any opportunity for bias in the reporting. The independent WADA laboratory results are communicated to the USADA,  which reports results to athletes, as well as uploaded to WADA’s Anti-Doping Management System (ADAMS).

Identification of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation

While an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) most often occurs as the result of a WADA laboratory reporting to USADA an adverse analytical finding (AAF), i.e., a positive test, an ADRV can occur from any of the following.

  • The presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in an athlete’s sample.
  • Use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method.
  • Refusing, evading, or failing without compelling justification to submit to sample collection after notification as authorized in applicable anti-doping rules.
  • Violation of applicable requirements regarding athlete availability for out-of-competition testing. Any combination of three missed tests and/or filing failures within a twelve-month period as determined by anti-doping organizations with jurisdiction over the athlete shall constitute an anti-doping rule violation.
  • Tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control.
  • Possession of prohibited substances or prohibited methods.
  • Trafficking or attempted trafficking of any prohibited substance or prohibited method.
  • Administration or attempted administration to any athlete in-competition of any prohibited method or prohibited substance.
  • Administration or attempted administration to any athlete out-of-competition of any prohibited method or any prohibited substance that is prohibited out-of-competition.
  • Assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, conspiring, covering up or any other type of intentional complicity involving an anti-doping rule violation, attempted anti-doping rule violation or a period of ineligibility by another person.
  • Associating with coaches, trainers, physicians, or other athlete support personnel who are sanctioned and/or criminally convicted of doping. Some examples of assistance include obtaining training, nutrition, or medical advice, and/or allowing the individual to serve as an agent or representative. Please know that USADA intends to provide a warning to an athlete if he or she is associating with a sanctioned person before any potential anti-doping rule violation against the athlete is pursued.

In the case that a WADA laboratory reports an AAF for an athlete’s A sample, the B sample is tested to confirm the presence of the prohibited substance detected in the A sample. The athlete has the opportunity to be present when the B sample’s tamper-proof glass top is opened and the sample is tested. The athlete, the athlete’s sport national governing body, the USOPC, and WADA are all kept informed of the process once an AAF is reported.

USADA Anti-Doping Review Board

In the case of an adverse analytical finding, confirmed by the B sample, or in all other instances where evidence of an anti-doping rule violation exists, evidence will be presented to USADA’s Anti-Doping Review Board (ADRB) to determine if the organization should charge the athlete with an anti-doping rule violation. The athlete has the opportunity to provide information to the ADRB prior to its recommendation. The ADRB consists of independent experts including, legal, scientific, or medical experts.

It’s important to understand that the anti-doping review board is not the independent arbitration panel that hears and decides contested cases (see below). The ADRB only provides an additional check, reviewing the case information and providing a recommendation as to whether an athlete should be charged with an anti-doping rule violation.

Athlete’s Decision

Upon receipt of the ADRB’s recommendation to proceed, USADA can charge an athlete with an anti-doping rule violation. Once charged, an athlete can choose to accept the proposed sanction or challenge the sanction at an arbitration hearing in front of independent arbitrators from the American Arbitration Association (AAA).If an athlete ignores USADA’s charges, a sanction is imposed after a set period of time.


Independent Arbitration Hearing

An athlete charged with an anti-doping rule violation is entitled to an independent hearing in front of independent arbitrators, not affiliated with USADA, from the AAA. All evidence is subject to disclosure in accordance with the law and witnesses’ testimony is given under oath and subject to penalty of perjury and cross examination. The arbitrator(s) panel provides a written decision to all parties which is then posted to USADA’s website.


The athlete, USADA, WADA, or the international sport federation (IF) can appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). A decision delivered by CAS is final.

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