Wednesday - August 07th 2019

Thanks to the snow sports athletes, parents and coaches who came to our informal q&a session last month.  Here's a summary of the answers: 

  1. Who gets drug-tested, and is it random?
  2. What is the difference between in-competition, and out-of-competition?
  3. What is the Whereabouts system, and how do you decide who is on Whereabouts?
  4. What is the process for reviewing who is on Whereabouts each year?  Will I ever leave once I’m on? 
  5. How are athlete support personnel defined in the World Anti-Doping Code and NZ Sports Anti-Doping Rules?
  6. If you have a positive test, and receive a ban from sport, can you continue training? 
  7. Would you be able to still work with your coach?
  8. What is the situation with supplements? Is it possible to return a positive test after taking a supplement?
  9. Can you test positive from passive smoking of cannabis?

1. Who gets drug-tested, and is it random?

No, it’s rarely random.  Last year DFSNZ did around 20 tests of snow sports athletes. Cycling, rugby union and rowing are the most tested sports in NZ, with DFSNZ funding around 600 tests on those three sports in 2017-18. We’re lucky because most Kiwi athletes are clean.   

You can be tested at any time. Tests are planned by DFSNZ and/or the FIS or your federation. These organisations will select the day, time and location that a test will take place. Testing is very rarely random and can be influenced by performance, past test results or intelligence received. We will have a reason, but it certainly doesn’t automatically mean we think you are taking something you shouldn’t be taking!

Your federation can contact DFSNZ (or other organisations) to conduct tests on their behalf, so even though you may recognise the testers as DFSNZ testers, they may be carrying out the test for a different organisation. You will be told by the Doping Control Officer which organisation has issued the test, and it will also be on your doping control form.

2. What is the difference between in-competition, and out-of-competition?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code and FIS rules define “in-competition” as being the period starting 12 hours before a competition in which an athlete is scheduled to participate starts. The in-competition period runs for the duration of that competition until the end, including the end of the sample collection process relating to that competition. 

The exception is where the rules of an International Federation or the ruling body of an event provide otherwise, but the FIS rules are the same as the WADA Code. 

The International Olympic Committee rules for Tokyo 2020 are the same as the WADA Code, but please note that these may change for Beijing 2022. 

3. What is the Whereabouts system, and how do you decide who is on Whereabouts?

Athlete Whereabouts is a system that enables athletes to be easily found and tested without any advance notice.

It’s used by all anti-doping organisations and these “surprise” tests help to detect and deter drug use.  Athlete whereabouts plays a key role in protecting clean athletes and the integrity of sport.  

The Whereabouts system requires athletes to log regular information about their where they are going to be, so that they can be tested.  It’s important that athletes follow the whereabouts rules because if you don’t, you could be found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation.  

Basically putting an athlete on Whereabouts is a judgement call for us based on a range of criteria. You don’t have to be on Whereabouts to be tested anytime (including at home). 

Our main aim is to support clean athletes, so wherever possible we will start athletes out on the National Testing Pool (NTP) before the Registered Testing Pool (RTP).  This is because the whereabouts requirements for RTP athlete are more onerous (than NTP athletes) and the consequences of failing to comply are more severe.  We want athletes to have a chance to get used to doing their whereabouts with minimal risk.   

If we can easily find you for testing, we’d rather not put you on the Whereabouts system. However, some athletes in particular have to go on the testing pool as they are winning medals!

Our general criteria for putting you on Whereabouts is based on the following:

  • Your current performance level and results. (eg are you an Olympic or Paralympic medal contender?)
  • The physical demands of your sport and the possible performance-enhancing effect of doping within your sport.
  • How easy it is to locate you for testing. (If we can find you easily, we don’t need you to provide whereabouts).
  • Previous results of testing
  • Intelligence DFSNZ has received
  • Returning from injury
  • Sudden improvements in performance (eg have you come out of nowhere to be winning on the international stage?)
  • Age and stage of your career (e.g. are you nearing retirement and seeking to qualify for one more Olympics or Paralympics?)

The full list of criteria can be found on our website.

4. What is the process for reviewing who is on Whereabouts each year?  Will I ever leave once I’m on? 

The Testing and Investigations Team at DFSNZ are ultimately responsible for deciding who is included in Whereabouts and which testing pool they are assigned to. We consider a range of factors to assess your level or risk and whether you stay within a certain testing pool, whether you are removed or whether you are changed. We’ll also consult with Snow Sports NZ about athlete performance.

We review our testing pool athletes each quarter, at the same time as we review our test plan. We try not to chop and change athletes on, off or between testing pools, so there is not a lot of change in the short term.

As long as you are a top individual performer in a high risk sport, you will remain on Whereabouts until you retire from sport (or are not longer performing at the top level).

5. How are athlete support personnel defined in the World Anti-Doping Code and NZ Sports Anti-Doping Rules?

Any coach, trainer, manager, agent, team staff, official, medical, paramedical personnel, parent or any other person working with, treating or assisting an athlete participating in or preparing for sports competition is considered to be an athlete support person.

6. If you have a positive test, and receive a ban from sport, can you continue training? 

No, you can’t keep training with your team or coach or using team facilities. A suspended athlete is not allowed to play or compete, train with a team, coach others or otherwise participate in most sports (not just their own sport) during the time they are suspended.

If you play or compete with a team while serving a ban, it’s called breaching a ban, and you could have your ban extended.  

Others are also not allowed to train with you. This is called “prohibited association” and stops a person who is bound to the rules from associating in a sports capacity with someone who has been banned

7. Would you be able to still work with your coach?

Basically, no. A suspended athlete could do their own individual training away from their team, but can’t get any sport-related advice or assistance from a coach (or other athlete support person).

8. What is the situation with supplements? Is it possible to return a positive test after taking a supplement?

Yes. Supplements continue to be a serious issue for New Zealand athletes. In the past few years a number of athletes have tested positive to prohibited substances believed to have been ingested through nutritional supplements. Each of those athletes faced a ban from all sport of up to four years.

In 2018 a Kiwi athlete was sanctioned after drinking from a teammate’s drink bottle which contained a product called Kick Pre Workout. A sample of Kick Pre Workout was tested and found to contain a substance called DMHA or octodrine, which is a central nervous stimulant that was initially developed in the 1950s as a nasal decongestant. Reported side-effects of octodrine include hypertension, breathing difficulties, mood swings, tremors, concentration deficiency, anxiety, and heartburn.

As an athlete you are solely responsible for every substance in your body, and DFSNZ cannot approve or endorse ANY supplements. By taking a supplement, you accept the risk that it could contain a banned substance, and the possibility of a four-year ban.

DFSNZ recommends you consider the following information when making your decision:

  • No supplement is 100% safe, however batch tested products are the lowest risk. Be aware that batch tested supplements do not provide a guarantee against testing positive.
  • Supplements can be accidentally cross contaminated by other substances made in the same factory, or can be deliberately spiked by the company to ensure users get results.
  • Many supplements have inaccurate labelling. Ingredients can have more than 20 different names and not every version is listed on the label. Labels may also fail to list every ingredient or refer to “proprietary blends” where ingredients are not specified.
  • Many studies suggest there is little evidence that athletes need supplements given a well-balanced diet.

9. Can you test positive from passive smoking of cannabis?

Passive inhalation of cannabis or other drugs is unlikely to result in a positive test. 

DFSNZ’s website has a summary of frequently asked questions about cannabisDFSNZ continues to ask WADA to change its approach to recreational drugs, but in the meantime athletes should avoid using cannabis as it’s currently prohibited in sport.