United States Anti-Doping Agency
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The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization and the national anti-doping organization (NADO) for the United States. The organization has control of the anti-doping programs for U.S. Olympic, Paralympic, Pan-American and ParaPan American sport. Its work includes in-competition and out-of-competition testing, the results management and adjudication process, the provision of drug reference resources, the therapeutic-use exemption process, various scientific research initiatives, and athlete and outreach education. USADA is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
USADA is a signatory to, and responsible for implementation in the United States of, the World Anti-Doping Code, widely considered the basis for the strongest and strictest anti-doping programs in sports. In 2001, the agency was recognized by the U.S. Congress as "the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sport in the United States." USADA is not a government entity, however the agency is partly funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), with its remaining budget generated from contracts for anti-doping services with sport organizations, most notably the United States Olympic Committee(USOC). The United States has also ratified the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport, the first global international treaty against doping in sport, and relies in a large part on USADA to carry out this commitment
In October 1999, the USOC created USADA to begin operation in October 2000. USADA's status and alleged independence from the USOC contrasts the norm in the United States in which most professional sport organizations (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) manage the anti-doping aspects of their sports. As a result of USADA's ongoing multi-year contracts with the USOC and the sport national governing bodies (USA Track & Field, USA Cycling, USA Swimming, US Soccer, etc.) the agency is responsible for managing the anti-doping programs including testing and results management for each sport's athletes and events throughout the year. Despite its name and status as the country's official anti doping organization, USADA is a private organization and not subject to government oversight.
World Anti-Doping Code
USADA is responsible for implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code in the United States. The Code works in conjunction with five international standards for uniformed and harmonization of testing programs across the globe and is widely considered the basis for the strongest and strictest anti-doping programs in sports. The Code works in conjunction with the following international standards:
- WADA Prohibited List (Outlining the substances and methods prohibited in sport)
- The International Standard for Testing (IST) (Test Planning and Sample Collection Process)
- International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) (Standard for the caliber of laboratories that can process athlete samples.)
- International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) (The approval process for allowing athletes to obtain exemptions for prohibited substances when a legitimate medical reason exists.)
- International Standard for Protection of Privacy and Personal Information. (Privacy protections when collecting and using athlete personal information.)
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) required that all Olympic sports adopt the World Anti-Doping Code prior to August 13, 2004.
While the WADA code has been accepted by numerous sport organizations, leagues, and federations around the world, the overwhelming majority of U.S. professional sport leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS); state athletic federations (boxing, UFC); as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are not signatories of the WADA Code and are often criticized for having less-effective anti-doping programs in comparison to the Olympic, Paralympic and Pan-American movements, as well as those professional sport programs in other countries that have become signatories of the WADA Code.
The USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing is consistent with the WADA Code and International Standard for Testing and outlines the organization's testing program. The organization tests athletes by collecting both blood and urine samples, both during, or in-competition, as well as out-of-competition which can occur at any time, at any location, without any advanced notice. Athletes are subject to testing 365 days a year and testing is not restricted by "off-seasons," training schedules, or competition schedules. Drug testing programs, like USADA's, that are consistent with the WADA Code, have often been referred to as Olympic style drug testing.
Athletes subject to USADA testing and that fall under the organization's jurisdiction include:
- Any Athlete who is a member or license holder of a sport National Governing Body (NGB)
- Any Athlete participating at an Event or Competition sanctioned by the USOC or an NGB or participating at an Event or Competition in the United States sanctioned by an International Federation (IF)
- Any foreign Athlete who is present in the United States
- Any other Athlete who has given his/her consent to Testing by USADA or who has submitted a Whereabouts Filing to USADA or an IF within the previous 12 months and has not given his or her NGB and USADA written notice of retirement
- Any Athlete who has been named by the USOC or an NGB to an international team or who is included in the USADA Registered Testing Pool (“USADA RTP”) or is competing in a qualifying event to represent the USOC or NGB in international competition
- Any United States Athlete or foreign Athlete present in the United States who is serving a period of Ineligibility on account of an anti-doping rule violation and who has not given prior written notice of retirement from all sanctioned competition to the applicable NGB and USADA, or the applicable foreign anti-doping agency or foreign sport association
- Any Athlete USADA is Testing under authorization from the USOC, an NGB, IF, any NADO, WADA, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”), the International Paralympic Committee (“IPC”) or the organizing committee of any Event or Competition.
USADA maintains a group of elite athletes as part of its registered testing pool. Consistent with the WADA Code, athletes in this pool are subject to strict whereabouts requirements in which they must inform the organization of their whereabouts (specific locations) at all times. Critics of WADA Code whereabouts requirements have criticized the requirement as overly strict, while proponents claim the requirement ensure athletes cannot evade tests.
USADA determines its test distribution plan (TDP) or the determination of who, when, and where the organization tests through a combination of many factors that are consistent with the WADA IST. Tests in many cases are targeted to specific athletes, events, locations, and times. Factors for determining tests may include:
- Physical demands of the sport and possible performance-enhancing effect that doping may elicit
- Available doping analysis statistics
- Available research on doping trends
- The history of doping in the sport and/or discipline
- Training periods and the competition calendar, season
- Information received on possible doping practices
- Resources aimed at the detection of doping may be specifically targeted.
The term "random" is inaccurate, as USADA uses various factors to strategically plan when and where they test athletes. High-profile or elite athletes are tested significantly more frequently than others.
Anti-doping sample collection is consistent with the WADA IST and are conducted by doping control officers (DCOs), specifically trained and employed by USADA. For tests in which blood is collected, USADA contracts with trained phlebotomists who work in conjunction with a USADA DCO.
In conjunction with the WADA International Standard for Laboratories, all samples are analyzed at laboratories that have been accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency. In the United States there are only two WADA Accredited labs, the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in Los Angeles, CA., and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in Salt Lake City, Utah. WADA accredited labs comply with the WADA International Standard for Laboratories.
USADA is responsible for the results management aspect of drug testing for athletes that fall under their jurisdiction. Results management includes communicating the results of drug tests with athletes as well as the adjudication of athletes suspected of committing an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV), which can be the result of a positive drug test, as well as other methods including all forms of credible evidence. According to the Code, an ADRV consists of the following:
- The presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in an athlete’s sample. (positive test)
- Use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method.
- Refusing or failing without compelling justification to submit to sample collection after notification as authorized in applicable anti-doping rules or otherwise evading sample collection.
- Violation of applicable requirements regarding athlete availability for Out-of-Competition Testing including failure to file required whereabouts information and missed tests which are declared based on rules which comply with the International Standard for Testing. Any combination of three missed tests and/or filing failures within an eighteen-month period as determined by anti-doping organizations with jurisdiction over the Athlete shall constitute an anti-doping rule violation. Click here for more information on whereabouts.
- Tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control.
- Possession of prohibited substances and prohibited methods.
- Trafficking or attempted trafficking in any prohibited substance or prohibited method.
- Administration or attempted administration to any athlete in-competition of any prohibited method or prohibited substance, or administration or attempted administration to any athlete out-of-competition of any prohibited method or any prohibited substance that is prohibited out-of-competition, or assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up or any other type of complicity involving an anti-doping rule violation or any attempted anti-doping rule violation.
When evidence meeting one or more of the above violations is found, an independent anti-doping review board will make the recommendation whether USADA should move forward with sanctions on an athlete. Athletes can either accept or challenge the sanction through an established legal process. In the United States athletes can take a case before an arbitration panel (American Arbitration Association / North American Court of Arbitration for sport) with a final appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Sanctions normally include one or more of the following:
- Disqualification of results in a particular competition or event
- Forfeiture of any medals, points, and prizes
- Team disqualification and forfeiture
- An ineligibility period that may vary according to circumstances
- Public announcement
- Name and offense listed on USADA's website indefinitely
Sanctions have ranged from public warnings or time served while completing education (often the case for first time marijuana offenses) to life-time bans for repeated or particularly egregious cases. USADA maintains a  list of all sanctioned athletes on its website.
Drug reference resources and Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE)
Athletes subject to testing by USADA have access to a number of resources designed to help athletes understand prohibited substances and if specific medications are prohibited according to the WADA prohibited List. In addition to a drug reference phone line, where athletes can speak to an expert, USADA has partnered with UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) to provide the Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO) tool. The tool allows athletes to search for the prohibited or not-prohibited status of a medication, by brand or generic drug name as well as drug ingredient.
USADA also allows athletes to apply for and obtain a therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) when a legitimate medical need for a prohibited substance exists. The USADA TUE process is consistent with the WADA International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions. TUE applications are reviewed by a TUE Committee consisting of independent doctors and medical experts. The TUE process varies depending on competition level. USADA's TUE process is considered strict, and a TUE is not always granted for applications.
Science and research
In the years 2001-2009, USADA budgeted $2 million per year to support research related to the deterrence of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport. Since 2009, the majority of anti-doping research activities previously undertaken by USADA has been assumed by the Partnership for Clean Competition. A List of research projects and grants can be found on USADA's website.
Education and outreach efforts
USADA focuses on deterring the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport through education efforts that are targeted both at elite-level Olympic and Paralympic athletes as well as the general public, including specifically youth level athletes. In addition to topics surrounding performance-enhancing drug use in sport, USADA claims to be an important promoter of other positive values associated with sport (sportsmanship, respect, teamwork.) In March 2011, USADA released a research report titled "What Sport Means in America: A Study of Sports Role In Society". The report aimed to measure the value of sport in American society and attitudes about the importance of protecting sport's integrity.
In December 2009, USADA launched Supplement Safety Now, in partnership with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League, the U.S. Olympic Committee and other national sports and health organizations, to end, what the founding organizations feel, is the existence of dangerous and unscrupulous practices of “rogue” manufacturers within the nutritional supplement industry. The effort, called “Supplement Safety Now,” works to eliminate the practice of selling supplement products containing steroids and other drugs which are labeled as “safe and legal” dietary supplements.
In June 2012, USADA charged retired cyclist Lance Armstrong with an anti-doping rule violation. The charges followed a dropped federal investigation involving charges relating to Armstrong's time on the US Postal Service professional cycling team (1998–2004). Armstrong sued USADA claiming that USADA did not have jurisdiction to bring a case forward, and that if forced to arbitrate his case, he would not receive due process. In Armstrong v. Tygart, Lance Armstrong lost his battle with USADA, as the District Court found sufficiency within USA Cycling’s agreement with the USOC to adhere to the USADA Protocol. The District Court found, that as a member of USA Cycling, Armstrong was thereby beholden to the USADA Protocol, which required that all contested charges of doping be tried through NAS and CAS arbitration. In its decision, the District Court noted that other federal courts have held similar, limited views on the role that federal courts should play regarding eligibility and arbitration issues within Olympic sports. Echoing the holdings of Slaney v. The Int’l Amateur Athletic Fed’n, and Harding v. U.S. Figure Skating Ass’n, the District Court held that “federal courts should not interfere with an amateur sports organization’s disciplinary procedures unless the organization shows wanton disregard for its rules, to the immediate and irreparable harm of a plaintiff, where the plaintiff has no other available remedy.”  The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed. On August 23, 2012; Armstrong announced he would not take part in arbitration. While he maintained his innocence, he contended that he could not take part in a "one-sided and unfair" process. In response, USADA banned him from ever competing again in any sport that uses the World Anti-Doping Code—effectively ending his competitive career.
A month later, USADA released a 200-page "reasoned decision" in accordance with WADA protocol. It named Armstrong as the ringleader of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." In response to Armstrong's argument that the eight-year statute of limitations for doping offenses had long since expired, USADA replied that the statute of limitations for doping offenses did not apply because of Armstrong's "fraudulent concealment" of his doping. Longstanding precedent in U. S. law holds that the statute of limitations does not apply in cases of fraudulent conduct by a defendant.
|Part of a series on|
|Doping in sport|
- Doping in the United States
- List of drugs banned from the Olympics
- Use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport
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