Your Triathlon Doping Dictionary

Your primer on the people, terms, and rules behind triathlon’s anti-doping efforts.

Photo: Triathlete, Getty Images, Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

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In our six-part series on doping in triathlon, we examine every aspect of anti-drug efforts in our sport. For more in this series, read:

In our six-part series on doping in triathlon, we cover a lot of ground, from how anti-doping efforts work in triathlon to what those efforts might be missing. As you progress through our series, you might find yourself encountering new organizations or terminology for the first time. As such, we’ve put together your primer on the people, terms, and rules of triathlon’s anti-doping efforts.

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The major players

WADA: World Anti-Doping Agency, established in 1999 as an international independent agency leading cooperative efforts for drug-free sport across all nations.

NADO: National Anti-Doping Organization, a catchall term for the individual nations’ agencies designated as the primary organization for carrying out anti-doping efforts. Most countries have their own NADO – for example, the United States’s NADO is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, or USADA.

Signatory: Any organization that signs the WADA code, agreeing to comply with the rules and procedures of anti-doping enforcement. This may be a NADO, a sport’s global or national federation (like World Triathlon or USA Triathlon) or a race organization, such as Ironman. However, not all races are WADA signatories – for example, the PTO or Super League Triathlon. For a list of all WADA signatories, see here.

ITA: International Testing Agency, an independent non-profit organization that can be contracted to carry out drug testing and results management – used by triathlon organizations like Ironman and World Triathlon.

Sporting Integrity, Ltd.: An independent consulting firm specializing in advising sporting organizations on anti-drug policies and procedures; utilized by the PTO.

Global DRO: Global Drug Reference Online, an online database of prohibited substances and administration methods used as a reference by athletes, coaches, and support staff.

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The lingo

Adverse Analytical Finding: One or more prohibited substances detected in a sample.

Athlete Biological Passport: A collection of blood and urine markers over time, analyzed through a mathematical model to discern patterns and variations that may indicate the use of illicit substances or methods.

Code: Shorthand for the WADA Code, a set of rules, regulations, and policies adopted in 2003 and designed to standardize anti-doping efforts across nations and organizations.

Chaperone: A person trained to assist a DCO (see below, doping control officer) with sample collection, whether through notifying an athlete, observing the sample collection process, or monitoring an athlete until they are able to provide a sample.

DBS: Dried Blood Spot testing, a blood-collection process involving a small puncture on a finger, heel or toe to obtain a small amount of blood, which is blotted and dried on paper. Is less invasive and more cost-effective than traditional venipuncture (collecting blood through a vein in the arm).

DCO: Doping control officer, or the person who notifies athletes of testing and carries out in- and out-of-competition sample collection.

Declaration of Use Documentation: A set of forms completed with every sample collection, in which the athlete must declare any and all medications, methods or supplements used in a specific time frame.

In-competition testing: A blood or urine sample collected between 11:59 p.m. on the day before a competition in which an athlete is scheduled to participate, through the end of the competition and the sample collection process related to the competition.

Out-of-competition testing: Testing at any time outside of the in-competition window.

RTP: Registered Testing Pool, or a list of high-priority athletes within an organization, such as World Triathlon or Ironman, who are subject to in-competition and out-of-competition drug testing.

SAFESystem: A sample collection kit used by USADA, with locking mechanisms, anonymous alphanumeric codes, security tags, and partial sample vaults to ensure the integrity of the sample until it is ready for processing.

Sample: Blood or urine collected for the purpose of testing for banned substances. The “A” sample is the first small volume extracted from the blood or urine for analysis; the rest, used for further testing (or “B” samples) is stored securely by the testing laboratory for a minimum of three months and up to ten years.

TUE: Therapeutic Use Exemption, an official document issued by WADA that allows an athlete to utilize a banned substance or prohibited method of administration for verified medical reasons (i.e., a prescription asthma inhaler), but only if the conditions set out in Article 4.4 and the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions are met.

Whereabouts: A set of rules for out-of-competition testing, in which athletes of a registered testing pool must provide anti-doping organizations with details of where they can be found for drug testing.

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Banned substances in triathlon

WADA’s Prohibited Substances and Methods List is used by signatories to indicate what substances and/or methods are prohibited in the sport, at what levels, and whether they are banned in competition only, or out of competition as well.

A substance or method is added to the WADA Prohibited List if the substance or method meets any two of the following three criteria:

  • It has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance
  • It represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete
  • It violates the spirit of sport

S1: Anabolic Agents: Includes anabolic androgenic steroids (synthetic hormones similar to testosterone), prescribed medications like testosterone gels, and other anabolic agents such as Clenbuterol or selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) like Ostarine. Prohibited at all times.

S2: Peptides and Growth Factors: A category of substances that include Erythropoietin (EPO), which stimulates the development of red blood cells; peptide hormones, or amino acids that stimulate growth and the release of specific hormones; and growth factors, which stimulate the growth of tissues. Prohibited at all times.

S3: Beta-2 Agonists: Medications – particularly, asthma medications (Ventolin, Albuterol) – which mimic epinephrine and norepinephrine. Some medications are allowed under certain dosage thresholds (athletes can check specific medications on Global DRO); the rest are prohibited at all times.

S4: Hormone and Metabolic Modulators: Synthetic compounds often found in medications to treat hormone conditions such as menopause, though also found in supplements designed to stimulate muscle growth. Prohibited at all times.

S5: Diuretics and Masking Agents: Substances used to dilute urine, either for medical reasons (such as reducing blood pressure) or to make banned substances harder to detect in a drug-testing urine sample. Prohibited at all times.

S6: Stimulants: Substances used to stimulate the central nervous system. May include prescription medications to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine, or illicit drugs like cocaine. Prohibited in competition only, though some exemptions are made for emergency medications like Epi-Pens (used for severe allergic reactions).

S7: Narcotics: Substances used to block or manage pain, including prescription medications such as morphine or oxycodone or illicit drugs such as heroin. Prohibited in competition only.

S8: Cannabinoids: Substances that contain THC, CBN, CBG, and other cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant (also known as marijuana). Does not include CBD, a specific cannabinoid extracted from hemp. Prohibited in competition only.

S9: Glucocorticoids: A class of medications used to suppress inflammation, such as prescription cortisone to treat joint inflammation and prednisone for asthma flare-ups, or over-the-counter drugs like hydrocortisone to treat skin irritation. Prohibited in competition only.

S0: Non-Approved Substances: Substances that are not already on the list and have not been approved by a regulatory body (such as the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA) for therapeutic use. May include nutrition supplements, designer drugs, discontinued drugs, or medications designated for animals.

M1: Manipulation of Blood and Blood Components: Altering one’s blood or blood components through red blood cell transfusion, plasma donation, or the addition of substances like EPO (see above, “peptides and growth factors”). Prohibited at all times.

M2: Chemical and Physical Manipulation: Tampering with a blood or urine sample by adding masking agents or using urine collected from another person; also can refer to injections or intravenous infusions (IV fluids) which can alter the accuracy of a drug test. Prohibited at all times

M3: Gene and Cell Doping: A procedure involving gene modification to change the way cells function in the body or alter gene expression.

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Anti-Doping Rule Violations

The presence of a prohibited substance is a major violation of the WADA Code, but it’s not the only anti-doping rule that can be broken. Athletes can run afoul of the Code in multiple ways, specifically:

  • Presence of a prohibited substance in blood or urine samples
  • Use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or prohibited method
  • Possessing prohibited substances or methods
  • Trafficking or attempted trafficking of prohibited substances or methods
  • Administration or attempted administration of prohibited substances or methods
  • Refusing or failing to submit to testing, without justification
  • Missing three drug tests in a 12-month period
  • Tampering (or attempting to tamper) with a sample, testing paperwork, or an investigation
  • Complicity (assisting, encouraging, or otherwise conspiring to violate an anti-doping rule or cover up illicit behavior)
  • Working with a support person who is serving a sanction for a doping violation or has been criminally convicted of or professionally disciplined for doping violations
  • Discouraging or retaliating against someone for reporting doping violations

It is not necessary to show that an athlete had intent, was at fault, or knowingly used a substance. A positive test or presence of a prohibited substance/method is enough to be sanctioned under anti-doping rules. An athlete may also be found in violation without a positive sample if admissions, witness statements, or other evidence is strong enough to show use or attempted use.

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