JUMP TO: WADA • USADA • Biological Passport • Therapeutic Use Exemptions • Anti-Doping Violations
WADA is the international independent agency that is charged with developing anti-doping policies and monitoring the World Anti-Doping Code (“Code”). The Code is the document that harmonizes all the anti-doping policy in all sports and countries.
WADA produces an athlete guide that is available for download through WADA’s website at www.wada-ama.org/en/Resources/Publications/Athlete-Guide/. This is an excellent resource to help professional runners understand the World Anti-Doping Code and their rights and responsibilities relating to the doping control process.
The “Prohibited List”
The World Anti-Doping Agency maintains the official list of banned substances called the “Prohibited List.” It is officially updated each year and is effective each Jan. 1. The Prohibited List is a compilation, by category, of prohibited substances and methods. Prohibited substances include Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS), Diuretics and Other Masking Agents, and Stimulants. Some substances are banned only in competition, while others are banned ALL THE TIME. Prohibited Methods include blood doping and tampering with your urine sample.
The Prohibited List is available at: www.wada-ama.org/en/Resources/Publications/Prohibited-List/. There is also an iPhone App and other mobile device programs available.
CAUTION: The Prohibited List is complicated and technical. It is not enough that an athlete did not see a substance specifically listed. Many substances have multiple names and synonyms. Also, the prohibited list contains several catch-all provisions for “other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s).” An athlete can test positive for a substance that falls under this provision even though it is not specifically listed.
Bottom line: It is your responsibility to know what substances go into your body. Consult with USADA (see below) before taking ANY medications or supplements. If you are unsure about the contents of something that you are thinking about ingesting, DO NOT TAKE IT. There are numerous documented cases where athletes have tested positive for substances in supplements because the supplement was tainted or was not labeled properly. “I did not know it was in there” is not a valid defense and a positive test, despite your ignorance of the substance, will result, with very rare exception, in a suspension from competition.
When in doubt, leave it out.
USADA is the National Anti-Doping Organization in the United States. It is responsible for drug testing of U.S. athletes, in- and out-of-competition, enforcement and adjudication of anti-doping rule violations, and anti-doping education in the U.S. USADA’s website is an invaluable resource for athletes. Several essential publications can be found at www.usada.org/publications-policies including the USADA Athlete Handbook.
USADA produces a “wallet card” that lists the prohibited substances and methods effective Jan. 1 of each year. The list is subject to change and it is an athlete’s responsibility to make sure to check the USADA or WADA websites or the most current information. This wallet card is a handy reference to use and carry if an athlete is considering taking a new medicine (prescribed or over-the-counter) or a new supplement. The wallet card is available at www.usada.org/publications-policies.
There are many ways to contact USADA is you are concerned about whether you can take a medication or supplement. The Drug Reference Phone Line is 1-800-233-0393 or 719-785-2020 if you are outside of the U.S. You may also email USADA at
Registered Testing Pool
USADA has the authority to test any athlete who is a member of USATF. In addition, USADA may test any athlete included by USATF in the USADA Registered Testing Pool (“USADA RTP”). You will be notified by USADA if you have been included on the USADA RTP. Inclusion in the USADA RTP requires you to comply with USADA rules for submission and updating of a Whereabouts Filing (see below). You must also successfully complete USADA’s online education module.
Despite the additional responsibilities it creates for you, inclusion in the USADA RTP is a sign that you are running on a national and/or international level.
The Whereabouts Rule requires that all athletes subject to the USADA RTP tell USADA where they are going to be on any given day in each quarter of the year. Information on Whereabouts Filings and other requirements can be found at www.usada.org/whereabouts/.
USADA uses a 2-Pool System. USADA will notify you of whether you are in the International Testing Pool (“ITP”) or the National Testing Pool (“NTP”). A helpful chart is available at www.usada.org/whereabouts-2011. The designation of an athlete as ITP or NTP affects whether or not that athlete is subject to the rules regarding availability for testing during a 60-minute time slot, “60 Minute Rule”, and “Missed Tests.” Only athletes in the ITP are subject to the 60 Minute Rule and Missed Tests.
If you have been identified and notified as being part of the USADA RTP, (regardless of whether you are ITP or NTP) you are responsible for keeping USADA up to date on your whereabouts. Upon notification of inclusion in the USADA RTP, you should immediately submit your Whereabouts Filing. Among other details, your Whereabouts Filing must include: 1) your competition schedule for the following quarter including locations and dates of all competitions; 2) places of residence during the quarter; and 3) names and locations of training facilities, work locations, and other regular activities. In addition, athletes in the ITP must provide a 60-mintue time slot each day between 6 am and 11 pm where they can be located for testing. The 60 Minute Rule is probably the most controversial aspect of the USADA protocol. While you must be available during your designated 60-minute time slot—USADA may notify you at ANY TIME during the 60 minutes—USADA is not obligated to test you during that 60 minute window. The essence of no advance notice drug testing is that USADA may test you out-of-competition at any time and at any place listed on your Whereabouts Filing.
Clarification of the 60 Minute rule is available at www.usada.org/uploads/testing/60-minute-clarification.pdf.
Whereabouts Filings must be made by the following dates (for the following quarters): December 31 (Quarter 1); March 31 (Quarter 2); June 30 (Quarter 3); September 30 (Quarter 4).
In addition, you must provide USADA with updates when information on your Whereabouts Filing has changed. This is extremely likely given that you provide information about competition and training schedules three months in advance. Updates can be made online, via email (
), via text message, or through a variety of mobile applications for iPhone, Droids, or Blackberry available at www.usada.org/m.
NOTE: When you retire from competition, you MUST submit to USADA, in writing, notice of your withdrawal from the USADA RTP. If you do not notify USADA and subsequently refuse a test, you will be subject to sanction.
Whereabouts “Filing Failures”
Failure to comply with USADA’s Whereabouts protocols can results in a Filing Failure. Such failures include: 1) failure to submit your completed Whereabouts Filing by the specified deadline; 2) failing to promptly update your Whereabouts Filing upon learning that information on the Whereabouts Filing has changed, will change, or is otherwise no longer accurate; or 3) providing insufficient information on your Whereabouts Filing or update. If USADA fails to locate you for testing due to inaccurate information on your Whereabouts Filing, this is a Filing Failure (note that this does not constitute a Missed Test, see below).
If you fail to submit your Whereabouts Filing or do not provide full information, USADA will send an initial notice of an apparent Filing Failure. You will have a chance to respond in writing before USADA will declare a Filing Failure.
If you receive an initial notice, you may want to consider consulting with your coach, agent, advisor, the USOC Athlete Ombudsman (see below), or a lawyer with experience in anti-doping matters before proceeding
You will receive a Missed Test if you are subject to the 60 Minute Rule (ITP athletes) and you are unavailable during the specified 60-minute time slot and location. If the Doping Control Officer (“DCO”) is unable to locate you, the DCO files an Unsuccessful Attempt Report. If USADA has reasonable basis to call your unavailability a Missed Test, you will be sent an initial notice of the apparent Missed Test. As with a Filing Failure, you may respond in writing before USADA may declare your unavailability a Missed Test.
If you receive an initial notice, you may want to consider consulting with your coach, agent, advisor, the USOC Athlete Ombudsman (see below), or a lawyer with experience in anti-doping matters before proceeding.
Whereabouts Related Anti-Doping Violations
If you receive any combination of THREE (3) Filing Failures and/or Missed Tests in an 18 month period, you will be deemed to have committed an anti-doping violation subject to sanction by WADA and USADA. It does not matter which organization declared the Filing Failure or the Missed Test. All Whereabouts Failures are shared among the IAAF, WADA, and USADA.
YOU HAVE RIGHTS. You cannot be disciplined without a hearing. You will need help in defense of an anti-doping violation. If you receive a third Whereabouts Failure, notify your coach, agent, advisor, the USOC Athlete Ombudsman, or a lawyer with experience in anti-doping matters before proceeding. Still, your best bet is to comply with ALL USADA protocols at all times.
The IAAF has begun using blood sampling and the Athlete Biological Passport ("ABP") as an indirect detection method consisting of measuring and monitoring selected biological markers, whose abnormal variations could be indicative of a doping practice. Athletes were tested at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu with the goal of establishing the participants’ full ABP baseline. The blood profile information collected can be used as evidence in support of an anti-doping violation.
The Biological Passport is a record of biological markers and testing results collected over a period of time. An anti-doping violation may result from the presence of a prohibited substance or from variances in an individual athlete’s established levels that are outside of permissible limits. The ABP consists of modules: haematological, steroid profile, and endocrine modules. If your haemoglobin or hematocrite are inconsistent with established parameters, this could be used as evidence that you have used a prohibited substance or method.
There is a Blood Testing Protocol published by the IAAF at www.iaaf.org/antidoping/newsid=58918.html
You should be aware of this program and how it might impact you. It is part of the future of athlete testing and anti-doping policy. The testing science is always advancing in an attempt to keep up with those who choose to use performance enhancing substances and methods.
If you have a documented medical condition that requires the use of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method, you must request a Therapeutic Use Exemption (“TUE”) from USADA or your International Federation (“IF”, for most professional runners IAAF). TUE information is available at www.usada.org/tue/. Please check the website as specific requirements can change.
To determine if you need a TUE, first research the medication on the Global Drug Reference Online (“Global DRO”) available through the USADA website or at www.globaldro.com/. Here you can enter the name of the medication and the site will tell you whether it is currently prohibited in-competition and out-of-competition.
Second, there are different TUE requirements for “Level 1 Athletes” and “Level 2 Athletes.” Athletes included in the USADA RTP are Level 1 Athletes. International Level Athletes (also Level 1 Athletes) are those designated by the IAAF as within IAAF’s Registered Testing Pool (“IAAF RTP”). USADA will assist International Level Athletes with forwarding TUE applications, but you have to request USADA’s assistance at least 21 days in advance of your use of the medication. Once you determine your competition level, you can determine the specific TUE requirements for that substance.
If you are beginning to feel confused and overwhelmed, this is normal and expected. There is a lot to understand regarding TUEs and it is not something to undertake lightly. If you take a medication for a medical condition, consult your resources. Consult USADA’s website listed above or email USADA at
with questions. Call the USADA hotline at 1-800-233-03893 (in the USA) or 011-719-785-2020 (outside the USA). The hotline is available Monday through Friday, 8am to 4pm (MST; 10am to 6pm eastern). Ask your coach or agent for assistance, or call an advisor who can help you with the process. Again, it is your responsibility to get a TUE if you need one. The fact that you could have obtained a TUE prior to testing positive is not a defense.
If you need the medication, seek a TUE immediately. If you wait, it may be too late.
In the event that you test positive for a Prohibited Substance, you will need assistance with any defense you may decide to undertake. You should consult with your coach, agent, advisor, the USOC Athlete Ombudsmen, or a lawyer with experience in anti-doping matters before proceeding.
USOC Athlete Ombudsman
John Ruger is the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) Athlete Ombudsman. The USOC's Athlete Ombudsman provides independent advice to athletes at no cost about the applicable provisions of the Ted Stevens Olympic Amateur Sports Act and the constitution and bylaws of the USOC, national governing bodies, Paralympic sports organizations, international sports federations, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, and the Pan-American Sports Organization, and with respect to the resolution of any dispute involving the opportunity of an amateur athlete to participate in the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, the Pan-American Games, world championship competition or other protected competition as defined in the constitution and bylaws of the USOC. For more information go to www.teamusa.org/about-usoc/athlete-ombudsman
Among other helpful information, the USOC Athlete Ombudsman’s includes a list of attorneys who have represented athletes in Olympic-related disputes. This list is provided as a courtesy by USOC and does not constitute a stamp of approval. www.teamusa.org/about-usoc/athlete-ombudsman/athletes-needing-legal-assistance-in-olympic-related-disputes
Matt Lane is a certified IAAF Athlete Representative and an attorney with a practice in business and sports law at the firm of Preti Flaherty with offices in Portland, Maine, and Boston. His sports law practice focuses on representation of athletes and entities in a wide range of matters including anti-doping issues, sports arbitrations, NCAA regulations and compliance, nonprofit formation and general counsel and advice to professional athletes. He was also a professional runner sponsored by Nike from 2001-2006, competing primarily in the 5000 meters, and was an 11-time All-American while at William & Mary, where he holds five school records. His law degree is from the University of Maine School of Law.