U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

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Blood Sample Collection Process

Athletes who compete in events sanctioned by, are members of, or license holders of a National Governing Body or International Federation, 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, dried blood spot, or other World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) approved matrices. 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

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USADA is committed to making sport safe, fair, and authentic at all levels of competition, through independent and comprehensive anti-doping programs. One key component of a successful anti-doping program is strategic drug testing, in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code. USADA’s gold standard testing program utilizes in-competition testing and out-of-competition testing, which can occur at any time and any location. Athletes selected for testing may be required to provide urine, blood, or both. This applies to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes, International and Masters Level athletes, and Junior athletes.

When a doping control officer, or DCO, notifies athletes that they have been selected for testing, the DCO must show the athlete their credential. If the DCO is not the same gender as the athlete, they’ll be accompanied by a chaperone of the athlete’s gender who can supervise the provision of the sample. The athlete is then required to produce identification and stay within direct view of the DCO or chaperone until the test is concluded. Athletes are required to report immediately to an out-of-competition location or to the in-competition doping control station, unless the DCO approves a valid reason for reason for delay, such as cooling down, attending a medal ceremony, fulfilling a media commitment, or receiving medical attention. Athletes do have the right to have a representative present.

For urine samples, minor athletes are also required to have a third-party present in the toilet area where they can monitor the DCO or chaperone during the provision of the sample. Athletes with disabilities have the right to request necessary modifications to the testing process. All athletes are asked to provide a sample of at least 90 milliliters of urine under the direct observation of a DCO or witnessing chaperone. If 90 milliliters are not immediately available, athletes will store the partial sample in a secure vault and use another collection cup to secure the remaining sample when ready. After staying in view of the chaperone and then providing a full sample, athletes will be offered a choice of sealed sample collection equipment that contain two security bottles marked “A” and “B”. They should inspect the equipment prior to use, and the DCO should instruct the athlete to ensure that the alphanumeric code on the bottles match and correspond to the barcode on the outside of the box. This is critical, since the athletes name will not appear on the documentation sent to the lab, to ensure anonymity. Athletes will then divide their sample between the “A” and “B” sample bottles, secure the bottles, and seal them for shipping. Athletes are to maintain direct observation and control of their sample until it’s sealed.

A sample collection session may include a blood collection. Some USADA DCOs will be licensed or certified phlebotomists. But if they are not, a certified and/or licensed phlebotomist, called a Blood Collection Officer, or BCO, will perform the blood draw. Athletes are asked to stay seated for a period of time before blood is drawn. Less than two tablespoons of blood is needed for testing, which should not affect athletic performance. Complications from a blood draw are rare, but can include, fainting, dizziness, bruising at the puncture site, or hematoma, nerve injury, and arterial puncture or laceration. Site reactions such as bruising or swelling can be minimized by applying pressure to the collection site for at least five minutes, avoiding strenuous exercise for at least 30 minutes, and keeping the bandage on for at least two hours. If you have ever experienced complications from a past blood draw, please bring them to the attention of the USADA DCO before the blood draw begins.

After securing the sample, the DCO will review the Doping Control Official Record, or DCOR, with an athlete, at which time, they will declare their use of any medications, supplements, or treatments before signing the DCOR. Athletes are encouraged to discuss any concerns with the DCO and to provide feedback to USADA. Please visit USADA.org for more information about the sample collection process.