Blood Sample Collection PRocess
Athletes who compete in events sanctioned by, are members or license holders of a National Governing Body, or who fall under the USADA testing jurisdiction as defined in the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, are subject to blood testing. Blood testing allows for the detection of additional substances that in some cases may not be able to be detected in urine. Additionally, blood samples allow for the use of longitudinal data collection, often called the athlete biological passport. Longitudinal data collection monitors certain bio markers over time to detect the use of performance-enhancing substances and/or methods.
This page outlines the in-competition testing process for a blood sample collection.
Explore the Steps of the Blood Collection Process
Athletes can be selected for testing at anytime and at any location.
When USADA develops its plan to allocate testing resources, a number of considerations factor into the approach to testing athletes. They can include the physical demands of the sport, the history of doping in the sport, training periods and the competition calendar, and many other key considerations. When athletes are selected for testing, they may be required to provide a urine sample, a blood sample, or both. Athletes are not selected for testing by the Doping Control Officers.
Athletes selected for an in-competition test may be selected based on rules that the international federation or a local organizing committee has established. This could include a place finish within the competition as well as being randomly selected or target tested. Click here for more information on test distribution planning.
A USADA doping control officer (DCO) or chaperone will notify athletes in person that have been selected for testing.
Athletes notified for testing will be asked to sign a document to acknowledge that they were notified and of their requirement to provide a sample of blood, urine, or both. Athletes will also be informed of their rights and responsibilities and should carefully read the statements prior to signing. Once athletes are notified of their selection for testing, they must always remain within direct sight of the DCO or chaperone.
For athletes selected to provide a blood sample, a blood collection officer (BCO) will accompany the DCO throughout the blood collection session. A BCO is a qualified phlebotomist who will perform the actual blood collection and could be dressed in scrubs, a lab coat, or other professional attire. The DCO will process the blood collection session. In some cases, the DCO may also act as the BCO. If the DCO is also a BCO, they will have the required certification and can provide a credential if requested.
Athletes should ask the DCO or the BCO to provide an explanation of the process should they have questions.
In addition, athletes are encouraged to have a representative present throughout the process. It is highly encouraged for minors or athletes with a disability to also have a representative accompany them throughout the process.
Reporting to the Doping Control Station
Athletes should immediately report to the doping control station unless they have a valid reason for delay.
A delay may be requested for valid reasons such as those that are outlined in the athletes’ rights and responsibilities, and the DCO will determine if the reason is warranted. The DCO or chaperone will remain with the athlete at all times until the sample collection process is complete.
Selection of Kits
Athletes are given a choice of individually sealed security and accessory kits from which to choose.
Athletes should choose and inspect the security kits, vacutainer tubes, and accessory kits to ensure they have not been tampered with and are not defective. Security kits contain the security bottles used to transport your blood sample to the lab; vacutainer kits include the vacutainer tubes for the collection of blood; and accessory kits contain the butterfly needle, straight needle, and other after-care supplies. Athletes should also check the contents of the security kits to confirm the sample code numbers on the bottles and labels match. Athletes should remove the shrink wrap from the bottles. The lids should be placed on the table with the sanitation cover down. The kits will be used to transport the athlete’s blood sample(s) to the lab.
A number of steps occur during the blood collection process to ensure blood sample requirements are met.
On average, about 15-16 mL, or less than two tablespoons, of blood will be drawn during the blood collection process. The amount of blood drawn should not affect an athlete’s performance. An athlete is required to remain in a seated position for a minimum of 20 minutes prior to the blood draw.*
The BCO will begin the blood collection process by selecting a location on the athlete’s skin from where to draw the blood and cleaning the area with a sterile disinfectant swab. The BCO will apply a tourniquet to aid in the collection, and the BCO will begin to draw the blood sample. A blood draw will be attempted a maximum of three times.
During the blood collection process, a number of vacutainer tubes of blood could be drawn, but keep in mind, less than two tablespoons of blood will be drawn. After the relevant vacutainer tubes are filled with blood, the BCO will label each tube with the corresponding sample code number for the security bottles, confirming with the athlete that each tube was labeled appropriately.
After collecting the blood sample, the BCO will provide any after-care measures and instructions needed.
Minor modifications, such as the number of tubes of blood drawn and the length of time that an athlete remains in a seated position, can vary between USADA and international federation protocols. Rest assured that the protocols fall within the International Standard for Testing & Investigations requirements.
*USADA requires that you remain seated for a minimum of 20 minutes prior to the blood draw.
Securing The Blood Samples
The security of an athlete’s blood sample, as well as his/her health and safety, are very important, and steps are taken to protect each.
The DCO will direct the BCO to place the lids on the bottles and twist once. The athlete will then twist the lids on the bottles until secure. Once the sample(s) are secure with the lid tightly sealed, the DCO may check to ensure the bottles are sealed properly by trying to turn the security lids counterclockwise, so they do not open. The security bottles are then placed in clear transport bags and sealed for shipment.
After the blood sample is secured in the security bottles, the DCO will complete the remaining paperwork with the athlete.
The DCO will guide the athlete through the remaining paperwork corresponding to the blood collection session. During the completion of the final paperwork, the athlete will be asked a series of questions that correspond to the paperwork. Once the paperwork has been reviewed, the athlete, his/her representative (if applicable), the DCO, and the BCO will sign the form to verify the accuracy of the information. The athlete will receive the appropriate paperwork copies and the remaining copies will be sent to USADA and the WADA-accredited laboratory. The laboratory’s copy has your name removed.
Shipment to a WADA Lab
After the conclusion of the blood collection session, the DCO will ship the athlete’s blood sample(s) to a WADA-accredited laboratory.
The chain of custody of the sample is closely monitored by USADA and the paperwork that accompanies the blood samples(s) to the WADA-accredited lab does not include your name. The sample code number written on the paperwork is the only information the lab uses to identify the athlete and the sample may be stored for eight years or longer.
You will receive a notification letter from USADA that states your analysis has been completed. If your blood is drawn by another anti-doping organization, you may not receive your results or a notification letter.
Athletes have the right to provide feedback about the USADA blood collection session.
Feedback is an important part of the doping control process. After each USADA blood collection session, a USADA DCO will provide the athlete with an evaluation form to provide feedback related to the blood collection session. USADA encourages athletes to provide feedback about their experience and every form that is submitted to USADA is reviewed.