How anti doping works for high level athletes

It’s a difficult subject to get away from. It seems that every couple of weeks the sporting press reports on another athlete that has failed a drugs test. While making depressing reading for fans and participants of the sport, it at least shows that the system in place for catching out cheats is working on some level. But what is that system and how does it work?

There will be some acronyms in the coming paragraphs so you may have to stay on your toes. The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) is the body in charge promoting, coordinating and monitoring the fight against doping in sport in all its forms. WADA have designed a system to coordinate their anti-doping activities providing a mechanism to allow governing bodies to implement the world anti-doping code. The system is called the Anti Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS).

The system has four functions. The first, athlete whereabouts, is fairly self explanatory and is designed to increase the efficiency of out of competition testing and maximise its’ surprise effect. The second that directly impacts the athlete is Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) management. When a substance or method on the prohibited list is prescribed for use by an athlete for medical reasons, the athlete has to submit a TUE request, the ADAMs system makes this a much simpler process. The final two functions, the information clearing house and the doping control platform, are administrative functions that allow storage and sharing of information among relevant organisations and allow governing bodies to better manage their doping control both in and out of competition.

So what does this mean for top level athletes. Basically, they have to specify 1 hour of each day during which they can be located at a specified location for testing. It doesn’t have to be at a home address but can be if they wish. Top level athletes usually have highly structured lifestyles and often their training and competition plans for the entire year will be laid out for them and while it may seem a bit of a hassle to submit the required information for 3 months at a time (I know I find it tough to plan my week in advance!), it’s a part of being a professional athlete. If it helps to keep sport clean and reduce the opportunities for cheats to get ahead then I think that the end justifies the means.

All the information you could wish to find on anti doping can be found at the WADA website


Neil Welch

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