Keeping it Clean
The complicated world of doping control in sport By Emily Cook
It’s 6: 30 a.m., and a pounding on my front door jolts me awake
from a deep post-training slumber. I should be alarmed by such
an early-morning intrusion, but these wake-up calls have become
routine. It couldn’t possibly be anyone but our local doping control
officer from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), coming to pay
a friendly visit for a surprise, out-of-competition drug test.
All athletes included in USADA’s international testing pool are sub-
ject to surprise testing, and additionally are required to submit where-
abouts forms four times a year. These forms require the address of
our residence, training facilities, work or any other regular activity
throughout the day, and a daily 60-minute time slot between 6 a.m.
and 11 p.m. where we can be located for testing.
Yes, that means every athlete at an elite level must tell USADA their
location at all times, 365 days a year. Hence, the 6: 30 a.m. wake-up
call. From 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., I can almost always be found in either
my home or my hotel room. If not, I had better remember to update
USADA via e-mail, text message or their mobile app system with a
Testing positive for a banned substance is not the only way an ath-
lete can get into trouble. Any combination of three whereabouts filing
errors or missed tests in an 18-month interval can result in a two-year
suspension. In the past 10 years, eight international athletes have
been suspended due to a combination of filing errors and missed
Once located and notified of testing selection, an athlete is required
to remain in sight of their doping control officer (DCO) at all times.
This can become complicated. During an in-competition-test, a DCO
The author enjoys a cup of coffee at Silver Bean Café,
during a surprise USADA doping control visit.