There are a lot of attractive aspects to being an Olympic-sport athlete. The feeling of fitness, the opportunity to compete against others – sometimes in pretty exotic places and occasionally on behalf of your country – and for a few, enough pay to make a reasonable living.
But there are plenty of downsides as well. The stress, especially at the world-class level, is intense and injuries, the struggle for most to balance sports and the rest of their lives (including finances) and trying to deal with anti-doping requirements are seemingly full-time jobs on their own.
The impact of doping on an athlete’s regimen is almost impossible to overstate and it’s not much appreciated by those who aren’t part of it, or see it on a daily basis. The fight against doping, especially in light of the state-run programs in the USSR, East Germany and nearby nations that became public after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, began a series of reforms that has expanded into a significant commitment of time and attention for every athlete who wants to compete at the international level.
It’s not enough just to avoid taking steroids or other banned substances. Athletes have to be on constant guard against ingesting anything – even restaurant meals – that could include contaminating chemistry. American long jumper Jarrion Lawson, fourth at the Rio Games and now a medal threat for Tokyo in 2021, was suspended for steroids in his system in 2018; he appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and was cleared in March of this year as “more likely than not that the origin of the prohibited substance was contaminated beef consumed in a restaurant the day before the test.”
Now we read with increasing frequency about “Whereabouts” failures, meaning an athlete missed a test or failed to file their location to be tested three times within a 12-month period.
Let’s think about that. An athlete who is part of the “Registered Testing Pool” – meaning they are subjecting themselves to the anti-doping protocols of their national anti-doping organization and applicable international anti-doping organizations in order to compete internationally – must tell those organizations where they are essentially every day of their competitive life. All so that they can be tested, unannounced, at varying times and as many times as the anti-doping folks want to test them.
This is the life of an Olympic-class athlete, and this part is no fun. The specifics:
● The World Anti-Doping Code’s International Standard for Testing and Investigations (2020 edition) states in Annex I:
“I.1.1 An Athlete who is in a Registered Testing Pool is required:
“a) to make quarterly Whereabouts Filings that provide accurate and complete information about the Athlete’s whereabouts during the forthcoming quarter, including identifying where he/she will be living, training and competing during that quarter, and to update those Whereabouts Filings where necessary, so that he/she can be located for Testing during that quarter at the times and locations specified in the relevant Whereabouts Filing, as specified in Article I.3. A failure to do so may be declared a Filing Failure;
“b) to specify in his/her Whereabouts Filings, for each day in the forthcoming quarter, one specific 60-minute time slot where he/she will be available at a specific location for Testing, as specified in Article I.4. This does not limit in any way the Athlete’s Code Article 5.2 obligation to submit to Testing at any time and place upon request by an Anti-Doping Organization with Testing Authority over him/her. Nor does it limit his/her obligation to provide the information specified in Article I.3 as to his/her whereabouts outside that 60-minute time slot. However, if the Athlete is not available for Testing at such location during the 60-minute time slot specified for that day in his/her Whereabouts Filing, that failure may be declared a Missed Test.”
● In Annex sec. I.3.1, the athlete further agrees to:
“c) specific confirmation of the Athlete’s consent to the sharing of his/her Whereabouts Filing with other Anti-Doping Organizations that have Testing Authority over him/her;
“d) for each day during the following quarter, the full address of the place where the Athlete will be staying overnight (e.g., home, temporary lodgings, hotel, etc);
“e) for each day during the following quarter, the name and address of each location where the Athlete will train, work or conduct any other regular activity (e.g. school), as well as the usual time- frames for such regular activities.”
● In Annex sec. I.3.2:
“Subject to Article I.3.3, the Whereabouts Filing must also include, for each day during the following quarter, one specific 60-minute time slot between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. each day where the Athlete will be available and accessible for Testing at a specific location.”
Do you know where you will be every day for the next three months? An athlete who is part of the Registered Testing Pool has no choice:
“It is the Athlete’s responsibility to ensure that he/she provides all of the information required in a Whereabouts Filing accurately and in sufficient detail to enable any Anti-Doping Organization wishing to do so to locate the Athlete for Testing on any given day in the quarter at the times and locations specified by the Athlete in his/her Whereabouts Filing for that day, including but not limited to during the 60-minute time slot specified for that day in the Whereabouts Filing. More specifically, the Athlete must provide sufficient information to enable the [Doping Control Officer] to find the location, to gain access to the location, and to find the Athlete at the location. A failure to do so may be pursued as a Filing Failure and/or (if the circumstances so warrant) as evasion of Sample collection under Code Article 2.3, and/or Tampering or Attempted Tampering with Doping Control under Code Article 2.5. In any event, the Anti-Doping Organization shall consider Target Testing of the Athlete.”
● And when plans change, the responsibility continues, as noted in sec. I.3.5:
“Where a change in circumstances means that the information in a Whereabouts Filing is no longer accurate or complete as required by Article I.3.4, the Athlete must file an update so that the information on file is again accurate and complete. In particular, the Athlete must always update his/her Whereabouts Filing to reflect any change in any day in the quarter in question (a) in the time or location of the 60-minute time slot specified in Article I.3.2; and/or (b) in the place where he/she is staying overnight. The Athlete must file the update as soon as possible after the circumstances change, and in any event prior to the 60-minute time slot specified in his/her filing for the day in question. A failure to do so may be pursued as a Filing Failure and/or (if the circumstances so warrant) as evasion of Sample collection under Code Article 2.3, and/or Tampering or Attempted Tampering with Doping Control under Code Article 2.5. In any event, the Anti-Doping Organization shall consider Target Testing of the Athlete.”
The failure to notify the anti-doping folks of a change in location was one of the factors that led to the two-year suspension of World 100 m Champion Christian Coleman of the U.S. on 22 October. While his Whereabouts information for 26 April 2019 indicated he was at home in Kentucky, he was in fact at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa and had not changed his status, even though he knew he would not be at home at least three days earlier. His suspension is being appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
There are filing aids available to athletes, most especially the availability of a custom, online application created by the World Anti-Doping Agency called the “Anti-Doping Administration & Management System” better known as ADAMS. Whereabouts filing can be made through this app and changed fairly conveniently using a mobile phone or tablet. So while onerous, the tools are available for athletes to stay current with the ADAMS system. Coleman did not.
No athlete is excited about these requirements, but as the Russian doping scandal from 2011-15 showed, it’s now part of the life of being an Olympic-candidate athlete. It’s a tribute to the professionalism of many athletes that “Whereabouts” failures are relatively rare, even though the numbers as edging up.
In Athletics, which has the largest number of participants in any Games – the quota for Tokyo is 1,900 – the Athletics Integrity Unit showed only four suspensions for Whereabouts in its list of ineligible persons for October 2020, out of 542 names on the list. There were 30 suspensions for evading tests and 484 for the presence or use of a banned substance.
That speaks to the vast majority of athletes who deal with the Whereabouts burden, and the actual provision of specimens at varying hours of the day on any day that the testers want to show up. Yes, many star athletes have been tested on consecutive days.
It isn’t all free shoes and glory.
For our 526-event International Sports Calendar from October 2020 to June 2021, by date and by sport, click here!