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Q&A: Should Athletes Give Consent for Research During Sample Collection?

Scientific research with vials and microscope.Recognizing that research and innovation are cornerstones of an effective anti-doping program, USADA has always placed emphasis on the study of prohibited substances, the development of anti-doping tests, and any research that advances anti-doping science.

Did you know that research using your sample has the potential to help the clean sport movement once routine analysis has been completed? Of course, all identifiable information is removed first, and your sample would never be used in research without your consent, which is why it is important that all athletes understand what it means to provide consent for research.

How do I provide consent for research?

During the sample collection process, while completing the doping control form (DCF), a DCO will ask whether you consent to your anonymized sample being used for research. This will be described verbally but ultimately involves checking “I Accept” and signing the DCF under the following text:

Consent for Research (optional): By checking “I Accept” and signing in the space provided I agree this/these Sample(s) may be used for anti-doping research purposes. When all analyses have been completed, and this/these Sample(s) would otherwise be discarded, it/they may then be used by any-WADA-approved laboratory for anti-doping research of any type, provided that it/they can no longer be identified as my Sample(s).

Since the DCF is an official legal document, the consent for research language can be confusing. We’ll break down some of the language in the following sections.

What sort of anti-doping research will my sample be used for?

Your blood or urine sample may be used for various types of research, such as testing newly developed laboratory instruments, calibrating a new technique, or developing normal ranges for the athlete population. This research is crucial to keeping anti-doping science on the cutting edge, which plays a major role in our ability to protect clean sport. Without access to real samples, anti-doping science cannot progress.

When would my sample normally be discarded?

Once routine anti-doping analyses have been completed, the analyzing laboratory is required by the anti-doping rules to store your sample for a minimum of three months. After this time, your sample may be discarded or USADA may request to store your sample for up to 10 years and may re-analyze it at any point if, for example, a new technique is developed to allow analysis for a substance prohibited at the time of collection. All samples must be discarded after 10 years. Regardless of how long the sample is stored, if the athlete has provided consent for research, then the anonymized sample may be used for research before it is discarded.

Can my sample be moved to a different laboratory for research?

Yes, the WADA accredited laboratories around the world will often collaborate on research efforts and share samples. Samples may be shipped to another WADA laboratory, but your sample will never be transferred to a non-WADA laboratory for research.

What does ‘de-identification’ mean? Will anyone know it is my sample?

When an athlete voluntarily chooses to contribute their sample to anti-doping research, the sample code number is removed following analyses so that the sample becomes anonymous and can never be traced back to the particular athlete.

What if I decline research on my sample? Are there any negative consequences?

An athlete’s consent to have their sample used for anti-doping research is entirely voluntary and does not affect the selection or frequency of future testing. Samples that are selected for research can never be traced back to an athlete even if the research indicates the presence of a prohibited substance.

Why should I consent to research of my sample?

USADA encourages all athletes to consent to their sample being used for research because it supports innovation that helps improve the anti-doping system and keep sport clean!

More Questions?

You can refer to USADA’s Clean Sport Handbook for general information or contact the USADA Elite Education Team with questions at education@USADA.org.

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