Doping Controls for Junior Athletes

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Opinion, Tips & Hints, Track
Tags: , , ,

I attended the first round of the National Junior Track Series (NJTS) the other weekend and observed a doping control up-close when one of the riders from our team was selected for one of four random doping controls being undertaken at the event.  They were random in so far as the riders chosen won the previous four nominated races.  Neither the young athletes, nor their startled parents/representatives had experienced anything like this before.  Some of the athletes selected wore it as a ‘badge of honour’, others were nonplussed, while those having to travel back interstate perhaps found it somewhat inconvenient.  I thought I’d share the process so those who are selected in the future know what they’re in for…

No translation required...

No translation required…

There was some concern that 13-and-14 year-old riders are too young to be tested, but ASADA have confirmed there is no ‘age minimum’ – which makes sense when you think of the age some international level gymnasts and divers for example.  However, this sort of testing can only be done at a ‘national level event’, which the NJTS qualifies as.  The other reason its not done all that often at junior level is the cost – in the vicinity of $700 to $1000 per test (depending what they’re testing for).

Once an athlete is selected, they are notified and allocated with a stalker – sorry, a chaperone.  This ASADA chaperone, of the same sex, then can’t let the athlete out of their sight until they have delivered both a urine sample and blood sample.  It was quite funny watching the targeted athletes wandering around with their ‘shadow’ following close behind.  All the chaperones were terrific about their role and provided information and support for their athlete.

The difficulty with the urine sample is it needs to be of a certain quality, or strength, to be acceptable, and drinking lots of water actually dilutes the sample, so care needs to be taken when trying to bring on a wee!  In terms of how it is taken… the chaperone watches the athlete produce the sample.  The athlete must be naked from the top of their thighs to above their belly button.  I assume so they can’t have a hidden urine store and feed that into the sample jar?  As these were junior riders, an athletes representative (or ‘witness’) watches the chaperone, watching the athlete, give the sample.  The witness remains with the athlete through the whole process.

This part of it was all pretty easy really, with no issues with any of the four samples.  The process from here is a bit of messing around – ‘messing’ being the operative word.  The rider pees into a jar, then must transfer this urine into two sample tubes.  These tubes are self locking and the athlete actually picks a random pack from a selection; checks they are unopened/still sealed; and goes ahead with the transfer… some more successfully than others… but you know what they say, don’t cry over spilt urine!

The urine collection tubes. These come in a randomly chosen sealed box and, once the sample is in them, are self-locked and tamper-proof.

The urine collection tubes. These come in a randomly chosen sealed box and, once the sample is in them, are self-locked and tamper-proof.

At this point, the athlete must fill in quite a bit of paperwork including checking the numbers on the lockable tubes match and writing these numbers down onto their paperwork.  The paperwork asks if the athlete is on any medication or had any medicines, creams, potions, tablets or the like.  It’s pretty thorough and includes things like pain killers.

The challenge with the blood sample is that it can’t be taken until two-hours after the athlete’s last race… so they need to hang out and let their body recover enough for blood to be taken.  This is were there was some angst amongst a couple of the selected interstate athletes – or more so their team managers – as there were flights to catch and in one case it was going to be tight!

This is an important lesson for all riders/team managers – allow enough time when attending national level events for a potential doping control when booking your return travel.

So the blood tests again were pretty straight forward.  The ASADA representatives did the interstate riders first and a qualified nurse was on-hand to expertly take the blood.  A similar process of the blood going into self-sealing tubes and checking of labels is undertaken; some final paperwork filled in and signed; and then it was off the airport in plenty of time to make our flights.

Blood sample tubes in jars in bags… pretty secure I reckon!

Blood sample tubes in jars in bags… pretty secure I reckon!

The pack that eventually goes to the lab just has numbers on it – with no names.  And these numbers match up to the collected samples.  The athlete doesn’t let the sample out of their sight until it’s all finished and locked away in yet another sealable, tamper proof bag.

At the end of the day, the athlete needs to know their rights and in this case, they were encouraged to ask lots of questions and had the whole process explained to them in a step-by-step fashion.  The athlete also has the opportunity to add notes to the form if something has happened that you didn’t like or thought may have been out of order.

A step-by-step guide of the testing process can be found here.  ASADA has also recently produced some videos with athletes talking about their first tests (a couple of junior cyclists even make an appearance!):

It definitely was a fairly detailed process but I thought it was handled sympathetically by all involved.

Personally I still have some reservations about the whole Strict Liability policy and even the impost of the whole Whereabouts system, but I guess until there is a better way to ensure we are racing in a clean sport athletes will have to put up with these inconveniences as just part of what they do.

Another good resource, and something I know that any rider selected in a State Team in Victoria has to do (along with their parents), is this level 1 anti-doping test.  It’s a bit clumsy, but I understand that a new and improved version is set to be launched in December.

Round two of the NJTS is in Melbourne on the weekend of the 15th and 16th November.

  1. John S says:

    Good to hear the experience was ‘positive’ 😉

    Given the proliferation of substance testing for employment, it’s something that more of us will be familiar with as time goes by (mining industry anyone?), so won’t be as daunting for many.

    I can sympathise with the strength of urine issue, having to give a sample while remaining hydrated is a balancing act – I once had to have three attempts before it was of sufficient concentration!

  2. Oscar says:

    It will be interesting to see if there is doping control at the Melbourne round and how that is managed with the management teams reduced in size to two. Our team, and likely most will have a two males, a coach/manager and a “mechanic” so should one of our young female riders require a chaperone for doping who will they call on? There may not even be one available to borrow from another team.
    Similarly if one of the management team is tied up with looking after an athlete being tested, a single adult is left to manage the rest of the team, all be it at the end of the day when things are winding down.
    I think there is something to be said to try and remove as many parents from the teams as possible but it will be a handful for the two remaining managers to keep on top of things and certainly benefit the larger outfits who field multiple teams and therefore will have a larger management group.

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