Rowers’ Question and Answer session

Thursday - June 13th 2019

Thanks to everyone who came to talk to us during our recent visit to the NZ Rowing boatshed.  We’re grateful to those had the energy to come and ask questions or say hi, especially after a hard morning of racing!  Below is a summary of the questions that were asked. 

1. Why am I on Whereabouts, and others aren't?

2. What is the process for reviewing who is on Whereabouts each year? Will I ever leave once I am on?

3. Why do the testers turn up at 9pm at night (or later) when I'm already in bed?

4. Why didn’t you test me during my hour?

5. Who decides when testing takes place? Is it random?

7. I got blood tested when I was overseas and I’m wondering why?  Are urine tests and blood tests aimed at different things?

8. What testing do you do at lower levels of competition?

9. What about other countries – are they tested as often as we are?

1. Why am I on Whereabouts and others aren’t?
Basically putting you 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 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?)

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

2. 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. This process will generally include consultation with your NSO.

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).

Other athletes may be added, removed or switched between testing pools based on reviewing the criteria above.

3. Why do the testers turn up at 9pm at night (or later) when I’m already in bed?
This would be unusual.  However, in order to maintain an element of unpredictability we try and conduct testing at different times of the day and at various locations (training, home or work etc).

We understand that it can sometimes be inconvenient and we really appreciate your support.In most cases the testing team will allow you to go about your usual business e.g. making dinner, finish your workout etc. as long as you remain in their sight at all times. Remember it is your responsibility to stay within their sight.

4. Why didn’t you test me during my hour?

This only applies to RTP athletes who have to nominate an hour each day where they must be available for testing at a location they specify.This one-hour time slot is required under the World Anti-Doping Code.

Testing during the hour would be quite predictable as you have selected that time. If you were to imagine an athlete taking prohibited substances, they are more likely to ensure they are clean within that hour. Also, if we test you in the hour, you’re at risk of a whereabouts failure if we can’t find you.Therefore, to avoid our testing being predictable (and to minimise the risk of athletes getting whereabouts failures) unless we have a reason to, we will often go outside of the selected hour.Your hour provides us with a backup if we want to be more confident of locating you for testing, for example, if we’ve already tried a couple of times to find you (outside the hour).

5. Who decides when testing takes place? Is it random?

No, it’s rarely random.We’re lucky because most Kiwi athletes are clean, but rowing, cycling and rugby union are the most tested sports in NZ.You can be tested at any time. Tests are planned by DFSNZ and/or your International 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 International 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 (it will also be on your doping control form).

6. How come I got tested twice in one day or within days?

Firstly, this may have been planned to introduce an element of surprise/unpredictability as to when you might be tested. Many athletes believe that once they have been tested they will not be due for another test for some time. We want athletes to believe they could be tested at any time.

Second, it’s possible that your International Federation and DFSNZ have both scheduled to test you on the same day. If the International Federation asks us to carry out the test, we will generally reschedule our own test.However, if the international federation uses another organisation to carry out the test, we don’t always know.

We do our best to coordinate testing by sharing test plans with international federations, to minimise any duplications but sometimes (hopefully rarely) unplanned duplications do happen.

And lastly, when we want to collect both a urine and blood sample from you, sometimes the logistics required (which may include testing other athletes nearby), mean that we will collect samples at different times very close together (even on the same day).For example, blood samples need to be delivered to the laboratory within a certain time frame which means we don’t always have time to wait for you to produce a urine sample – but will come back and get that later.

7. I got blood tested when I was overseas and I’m wondering why?  Are urine tests and blood tests aimed at different things?

We want to ensure our athletes are always clean; not only when they are in NZ. Athletes should be prepared to be tested at any location, including while overseas. These tests can be issued by DFSNZ, the national anti-doping organisation of the country you are in or your international federation. Again, you can find out who has issued the test by asking the doping control officer.Testing athletes overseas is another way for us to increase our unpredictability as some athletes may think it is harder to be tested when they are outside of New Zealand.

Different substances can be detected with different types of analyses on different types of samples(blood or urine).The fact that it was a blood and not a urine test simply reflects the type of analysis we, or someone else, planned for you at that time (when you happened to be overseas).

8. What testing do you do at lower levels of competition?

DFSNZ’s focus is on high performance and athletes competing at national level competitions (including age group competitions in selected sports). We rarely test lower level athletes and would only do so where we have received intelligence regarding possible doping.

We also invest a lot of resources into education to prevent doping.DFSNZ runs free workshops for schools and sports organisations around the country. We also do outreach at sports events including NZ secondary school competitions in cycling, rowing, rugby, basketball, volleyball just to name a few. Our e-learning programmes are on our website and available to anyone.We’re open to ideas, so please tell us what education initiatives are most useful to you.

9. What about other countries – are they tested as often as we are?

We work closely with our international counterparts around the world, and while we can collaborate and share information regarding testing, we cannot dictate how much testing they should do or who they test. Further to this, we have neither the jurisdiction or the resources to test foreign athletes overseas.However, we can and often do test foreign athletes when they are in New Zealand (for training or to compete).

If you have any doping concerns about a competitor (of any nationality), please let us know

You can also call Drug Free Sport NZ in confidence on 0800 DRUGFREE (378 437) and ask to report doping, or email us confidentially: intel@drugfreesport.org.nz

We know that most Kiwi athletes are clean – and our goal is to run a good testing programme that deters and detects doping.When we’re meeting with overseas counterparts, we can then demand that those other countries meet the same standards, because we don’t want you to have to compete against cheats.