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Global Anti-Doping Rules Must Be Reformed to Protect Innocent Athletes

An empty track and stadium.USADA announced today that Aldrich Bailey Jr. of Arlington, Texas, an athlete in the sport of track and field, has tested positive for trace levels of ostarine from contaminated neoprene hamstring sleeves, at no fault of his own. Bailey will not face a period of ineligibility, but under the World Anti-Doping Code, his no fault violation must nevertheless be publicly disclosed with disqualification of competitive results if collected in-competition.

“Through in-depth investigations and painstaking scientific studies, we continue to see the many ways athletes may be innocently exposed to prohibited substances, resulting in ultra trace levels reported positive in urine samples,” said Travis T. Tygart, Chief Executive Officer of USADA. “The system needs to evolve to account for dramatic increases in the sensitivity of laboratory analyses that increasingly catch innocent athletes in this detection dragnet. While this increased capability of the laboratories is fantastic for clean sport, the rules need to catch up and be made more fair and just.

Further, even after it is established, as we did in this case, that the athlete is completely innocent, the WADA rules require disqualification and publication of no fault findings such as this to remain compliant with the rules.”

The system can be reformed to eliminate the risk of sanctioning clean athletes while still holding intentional cheaters accountable.

As such, it is all of our responsibility to protect innocent athletes as avidly as we hold accountable intentional cheaters, and USADA calls for continued action by the anti-doping community to ensure cases like this do not continue to affect clean athletes.

The facts of Bailey’s case that substantiate the need for reform are as follows.

Bailey, 30, tested positive for very low levels of ostarine as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample he provided on May 18, 2023. A follow-up sample collected out-of-competition on June 1, 2023, also contained very low levels of ostarine. Ostarine is classified on the WADA Prohibited List as a Non-Specified Substance in the class of Anabolic Agents. It is prohibited at all times under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policy, and the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules, all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code and the WADA Prohibited List.

Bailey identified two used neoprene hamstring sleeves that a friend had given him which Bailey frequently wore in the days leading up to sample collections. Laboratory testing of the sleeves by the athlete, and then by a WADA-accredited laboratory, revealed the presence of ostarine and its metabolite. Through its investigation, USADA determined that, unbeknownst to Bailey, his friend regularly consumed ostarine consistent with doping prior to exercising while wearing the neoprene sleeves in the months before giving Bailey the sleeves. The friend’s sweat contained enough ostarine that the prohibited substance and its metabolite accumulated in the hamstring sleeves (nanograms per gram) even after they had dried.

By then wearing the sleeves in combination with applying medicinal creams to treat his hamstring injury, Bailey, through no fault of his own, inadvertently absorbed ostarine from the sleeves through his skin that, when metabolized, was consistent with his positive urine test. USADA independently confirmed the scientific plausibility of this route of administration through detailed studies conducted in coordination with laboratory experts.

The first study confirmed that a neoprene hamstring sleeve can become contaminated with ostarine via sweat excretion after being worn by someone who used ostarine and exercised multiple times while wearing the sleeve. The second study confirmed that wearing an ostarine-contaminated neoprene sleeve for even a short duration while using medicinal creams can result in the transdermal absorption of ostarine via the contaminated sleeve. The study further confirmed that the absorption can trigger a positive test consistent with the exceedingly small concentrations found in Bailey’s sample.

Therefore, because Bailey tested positive without any fault or negligence, he will not face a period of ineligibility. Since the sample was collected out-of-competition, there are no competitive results to disqualify. WADA and World Athletics, which is the International Federation for Track & Field, have received the case file and elected not to appeal the resolution of this matter.

After confirming that Bailey’s friend had possessed the ostarine while a member of USA Track & Field and his use of ostarine was the source of Bailey’s positive test, USADA initiated a case against this individual, which resulted in a three-year period of ineligibility. The announcement regarding that sanction can be found here.

In an effort to aid athletes, as well as support team members such as parents and coaches, in understanding the rules applicable to them, USADA provides comprehensive instruction on its website on the testing process and prohibited substances, how to file and update athlete Whereabouts, how to obtain permission to use a necessary medication, and the risks and dangers of taking supplements, as well as performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.

In addition, USADA manages a drug reference hotline, Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO.com), conducts educational sessions with National Governing Bodies and their athletes, and distributes a multitude of educational materials, such as a supplement guide, a nutrition guide, a clean sport handbook, and periodic alerts and advisories.

USADA makes available a number of ways to report the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in sport in an effort to protect clean athletes and promote clean competition. Any tip can be reported using the USADA Play Clean Tip Center, by text at 87232 (“USADA”), by email at playclean@USADA.org, by phone at 1-877-Play Clean (1-877-752-9253) or by mail.

USADA is responsible for the testing and results management process for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement and is equally dedicated to preserving the integrity of sport through research initiatives and educational programs.

For more information or media inquiries, email media@usada.org.

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