The USADA and USA Swimming

NAAC Notebook: Why Talk About Drug-Testing?

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is charged with preserving the integrity of competition. They manage the anti-doping program for all USA Swimming competitors. In the past, only elite swimmers were familiar with USADA. However, as USA Swimming has expanded the opportunities for age group swimmers to compete in elite events, and as our team works toward our vision of producing National and Collegiate swimmers, it becomes increasingly likely that our swimmers will need to know about USADA and NCAA Anti-Doping policies.

Recent updates - Coaches - Resource Roundup and 5 reminders before your athlete heads to competition | What can happen when the risks around dietary supplements are not fully understood | Curious about what happens after the results of your sample collection are received? Explore the process

Anti-Doping Testing at USA Swimming Meets

Who can be tested?

Any competitor at any USA Swimming sanctioned meet could be randomly selected for testing. This includes Age Group and Masters swimmers. As a practical matter, USADA Doping Collection Officers (DCOs) are only present at elite meets. The world's top swimmers are also required to submit to testing outside of competitions.

What if I test positive?

Swimmers who test positive for any banned substance face serious possible consequences:

Loss of results | Suspension from the sport | USADA issues a press release with the swimmer's name and violation | USADA maintains a permanent sanctions list, which future colleges and employers can and do access during candidate screening.

The responsibility is the athlete's. Ignorance of the policy is not an excuse. It is not wise to trust that a substance is allowed because a trainer, healthcare provider, or coach recommended it.

What is a banned substance?

Any substance that enhance performance, poses a health risk, or violates the spirit of the sport is a banned substance. The list is very long. It differentiates between substances that are banned only during competition, and those that are never allowed. The list is constantly changing. It includes steroids, insulin, common cold and allergy medications, Beta-2 Agonists (asthma inhalers), etc. Before a swimmer takes anything they should check the Global Drug Reference Online or call the USADA Drug Reference Line.

Why are so many common medications banned?

Most medications, if taken inappropriately, may enhance performance or pose a health risk.

What if medication I need is on the banned list?

Swimmers who have a medical need for a banned substance should consider applying for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). Please remember that TUEs take a minimum of 21 days - but average several months - to be granted. Most TUEs that are denied are denied because the applicant fails to provide all of the requested information. For example, asthma documentation must include laboratory test results such as pulmonary function tests. A medical history and doctor's prescription is not enough.

Who needs a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE)?

Once you know that a medication your athlete needs is prohibited, go to the USADA website to determine if you need a TUE. Most NAAC athletes are non-national athletes, which means that they are held to a less stringent standard, but they may still require a TUE.


Why is marijuana on the list?


Recreational marijuana use may be legal in some states but it is banned in our sport. Read why it is considered a health risk on the USADA website. The marker for marijuana is stored in the body’s fat cells. Every person metabolizes it differently, but it can show up on a drug test a month or more after exposure.

USA Swimming recently conducted training for coaches on the USADA Anti-doping policy. The specialist cited marijuana violations as a primary source of positive drug tests among U.S. athletes. The sanctions for violators can impact the athlete far into the future.

What about Dietary Supplements?

dietary suplements

USADA created an online dietary supplement safety education and awareness resource called Supplement 411 to address the risk these substances can pose. "The reality is that the use of dietary supplements can be risky, and that awareness, caution, education, and common sense must be exercised when considering their use."

USADA urges you to REALIZE there are safety issues with dietary supplements, RECOGNIZE risk when you see it, and REDUCE your risk of testing positive and experiencing health problems by taking concrete steps.

What To Expect

Very few NAAC swimmers will ever be required to provide a sample. However, it is best to prepare them so they know what to expect if they are selected. The USADA website has complete details on the collection process. If a swimmer is selected to give a urine sample they will be approached by a USADA Doping Collection Officer (DCO). Minors must be accompanied by a third-party adult (usually a parent or coach) to act as their representative. Swimmers 18 or older may request a representative be present. This person will not need to see the swimmer provide the sample. They will watch the DCO watching the athlete.

Swimmers may delay the test for a variety of reasons (complete other events, cool down, get treatment from an athletic trainer, find a parent or coach, attend a medal ceremony, etc.) As long as the DCO can directly supervise the athlete from notification until the sample is collected, they will usually try to accomodate reasonable requests.

Once the athlete is in the testing area, they will be required to adjust clothing to provide a full view of the sample being collected. This is because some athletes have attempted to substitute clean urine samples in the past. If the swimmer is unable to provide enough urine the DCO will wait with the athlete until an adequate sample is collected.