Keeping elite athletes clean

Keeping elite athletes clean

Doping control officials are common place at sporting events PHOTO: Supplied

For elite athletes an unexpected knock at the door and a drug test is all part of the deal.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand, and other anti-doping agencies employ a number of methods to keep sport clean of doping, including random drug testing.

Programme director for testing and investigations, Jude Ellis said along with education and intelligence, testing was one of the main ways of keeping sport clean.

“While we’re confident that the majority of NZ athletes and the wider sporting community are committed to the principles of clean sport, the testing programme detects and deters doping.”

Athletes can be tested anytime between 6 am and 11 pm at night on any day of the week. However, if there are “serious suspicions” the athlete is doping, they can be tested at any time.

“Drug Free Sport New Zealand tries to be unpredictable in when it tests athletes, which means testing athletes out-of-competition at different times of the day.”

The time of the day may be random but deciding who gets tested was often calculated.

Athletes can be targeted for testing due to various factors such as risk, previous testing results, and intelligence that has been received about an athlete or sport.

“Sometimes an athlete will be targeted simply because they have never been tested before and they are performing at a reasonably high level, or are an emerging elite athlete,” Ellis said.

In 2017/18 Drug Free Sport New Zealand conducted over 1350 tests and six athletes tested positive for banned substances.

A further 17 athletes were banned for other anti-doping rule violations such as possession and use, complicity, and participation during a period of ineligibility.

Thirteen of those violations were in relation to Clenbuterol, which is an anabolic agent used to lose weight while maintaining lean muscle mass. The spike in violations involving Clenbuterol is linked with it becoming available online in New Zealand.

The starting sanction for an athlete who purchases a 10ml bottle of Clenbuterol is a four-year ban under current anti-doping rules.

Rugby union, cycling, and rowing were the most tested sports in 2017/18, with those three sports accounting for nearly half of all tests.

To carry out these tests Drug Free Sport New Zealand used approximately 100 independent contractors located in various places around the country.

The contractors include doping control officials, chaperones, and blood collection officers.

Having at least two doping control personnel present during a test mission is preferred, however, in some circumstances doping control officials work alone.

Athletes are required to keep the address of their home and training locations updated so that they can be located for testing without prior notice.

If an athlete can not be located for a drug test then it is recorded as an unsuccessful attempt.

Some athletes, however, are part of a “Registered Testing Pool” which means they have a nominated 1-hour daily slot where they must be available for testing. If they are not where they are supposed to be they may receive a “whereabouts failure.” Three “whereabouts failures” in 12 months is an anti-doping rule violation.

“At Drug Free Sport New Zealand our job is to protect clean athletes and promote clean sport,” Ellis said.

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Article by Adam Blackwell

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Article by Adam Blackwell

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