as an IFSS Doping Controls Trainee at the 2013 World Championships
Experience as an IFSS Doping Controls Trainee at the 2013 World Championships
Mike Marsch, the president of MUSA, asked that I write a report from my experience at the 2013 IFSS World Championships, as a Doping Control Trainee. Mike asked me in particular to dispel any misconceptions about doping controls. I think the biggest misconception is that humans and canines are all under suspicion for drug use and it is in order to make race days more stressful and difficult than they already are. The biggest actual stress is the unknown, and in particular, what happens if you or your dog is selected (“Notified”) in order to go through a “Collection”.
I have been a board member of MUSA for over a year, and one of my interests in becoming a member was to help with any issue related to doping control, since I am a chemist by profession. I had been involved with therapeutic use exemption questions at both the 2009 Dry land World Championships in Saguenay and the sled dog World Champs in Daaquam as well. I have been very involved with the pre IFSS World Champs in keeping the MUSA team members up to date with changing antidoping rules for both humans and canines. Since I was going to be in Alaska to handle for my daughter’s team for her race I was eager to get whatever exposure that I could to doping controls training during a race.
Both my first and last impressions were that the IFSS and its officials take doping controls very seriously and professionally, and expect the participants to be knowledgeable about the procedures as part of their responsibility of racing on an international level. The officials are highly accountable for following the doping controls procedures correctly and, at the Olympic level. Directly from the IFSS website:
“Being part of the international sports movement and with the vision to become part of the Olympic Games, IFSS is required to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code. Rules and Procedures for this concerning humans and dogs has been approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).”
I had the privilege of job shadowing and training under Carin Ahlstedt who is a member of the IFSS antidoping committee with a special focus on testing procedures and training. We had an extremely limited amount of theory time before we had to begin the actual notifications and collections that occur race days.
One of the misconceptions is how racers, both human and canine, are selected for Doping Controls. The official race judges make the call at the beginning of each race day, and the selections are 1. Random 2. Targeted 3. Vet request. The requests are provided to the Doping Controls Officer and the information is held in strict confidence, as are the reasons behind the requests.
Europeans are quite accustomed to Doping Controls procedures but North Americans are not, primarily because of the very limited exposure that we have to actual IFSS races. I too was very surprised at the rigor and stress when an individual is notified particularly if they and their organization have never been instructed on what to expect. After working my first day under Doping Controls practises, I was able to give our American team a practical sense of what to expect, and wrote up guidelines for the competitors during the race week. One US competitor was ‘Notified’ at the conclusion of one his races, and he was gracious to permit sharing his experience.
In comparison another North American country had multiple notifications and their team members talked to me informally saying that they wish they had had practical training before the competition on what to do if you are notified.
Due to logistics limitations I was not able to complete training and be tested for Doping Controls Officer certification, but that is my goal in the next two years so I can participate in the 2015 Worlds in Europe. However I believe that my hands on time was as valuable if not more so than the actual theoretical training. One of the myths that I was glad to help dispel during the competition was that the judges are difficult to work with. Not at all – in fact, I found that the officials hold themselves to extremely high standards and are 100% accountable for any error and complaint that the athletes might have. Also the athletes are under a great deal of stress, and do not always respond with patience to time sensitive requests, when the athletes are, as they should be, completely responsible for the care of their dogs. A Doping Controls Officer must conduct their duties or lose their license; all while dealing with stressed athletes who many times do not always speak the same language as the DCO. I also found that it is very helpful for a DCO to have a 2nd set of hands, eyes and ears with them.
Finally if the US hopes to be taken seriously at IFSS conducted events, we, as athletes and our country representatives, must be comfortable and knowledgeable about doping controls on both a theoretical (e.g. read EVERYTHING on the IFSS antidoping site) as well as practical (see guidelines below). I strongly urge MUSA to provide practical training or even a training video to all competitors at future IFSS sanctioned events. Team meetings during the competition are a perfect venue to review practical guidelines.
My Drug Testing Experience at the 2013 World
While warming up and getting my pup Quinn ready on the morning of my fourth 2013 WCh event, I was visited by anti-doping official Carin Ahlstedt. I thought to myself, "Great. At the end of the race I'm going to have to worry about getting a sample from Quinn. I'm going to have to remember to wear the gloves at the right time, and if Quinn eludes our efforts to collect his urine this is going to be a long afternoon of captivity". Mrs. Ahlstedt did not strike up a conversation and was just pleasant while watching me get ready. I remember saying to her that: "Quinn is overweight, I am feeling pretty tired from the last two days of racing the 15k one dog skijor and pulk, and we have been really happy with finishing 6th." I figured it was worth the effort to inspire Mrs. Ahlstedt to test a top three finisher who exhibited more speed and who perhaps would have more incentive to be cheating.
At the end of the race Mrs. Ahlstedt met me at the finish and was very pleasant and helpful as I prepared to get Quinn and myself ready to spend an hour 'taking care of business'. At that time Mrs. Ahlstedt informed me that she was not requesting a sample from Quinn, but just from me. "Well, heck, this is going to be easy then" I thought to myself. I've been drug tested before by my employer and my experience has been that as long as the person in charge is friendly, the process is painless. This was very much the case at the 2013 WCh.
Mrs. Ahlstedt accompanied me to the private office next to the start line used for drug testing. I helped her get the lock unstuck so that we could get inside. She informed me that because I was a male that when the actual sample was taken it would be by IFSS President. Mrs. Ahlstedt took her time and worked on the seemingly simple paperwork. She knew I wanted to watch the women at the start of the 15k Combined and so she escorted me out of 'the box' and locked the door behind us so that I could have a few seconds to admire the mass start. After a few minutes we went back in and I was instructed to choose from one of three collection kits. They were all exactly the same. Mrs. Ahlstedt recorded the unique numbers on the box and the contents after I chose the middle one. I was instructed to open it and take the containers out. I was instructed to fill the collection container to a certain minimum level or the test would need to be performed over again.
The IFSS President joined me in the designated portable bathroom for the collection process. Before 'peeing in the cup' I had to roll up my sleeves to the elbow and drop my drawers and 'Captain America' racing suit to the knee. The pres’ job was to make sure I did not have a secret stash of urine hidden on my person. I felt a little silly with my drawers down waving my hands in the air but to show him that I had no plans to deceive the system. He was extremely kind and as much as possible gave me my dignity.
With the sample collected I was escorted back to Mrs. Ahlstedt's office and she instructed me as to how to pour the contents into the two collection containers that I then closed noting how intricate the security on the lids looked. Mrs. Ahlstedt said that the samples would be locked in her vehicle, frozen and that they would fly home with her and then would be sent to a lab in Europe. She said the results would take approximately one month. Mrs. Ahlstedt checked the concentration of my urine with a high tech device to make sure that it wasn't too diluted. As we finished the paperwork she asked me for feedback on the process. I told her that I thought it was 100% professional and that I felt comfortable with how she treated me and informed me along the way as to what was going to happen. After showing her my driver's license she gave me one of the four copies of the paperwork for my files.
Practical Guidelines for Canine Doping Control Testing Provided to MUSA competitors during the IFSS 2013 World Championships
(These are applicable to humans as well, except the human does not need to be put away in a dog box, can formally request a collection for > 1 hour, and will need a representative to be present during collection which will occur in a controlled specimen collection area, eg private port potty.)
1. If you are selected for doping control testing, you will be approached by Doping Control officer as you cross the finish line. The DCO will identify him/herself w a badge. You have the right to ask the DCO to see the badge. You and the team must stay at or near the finish line to complete the notification which should only take a few minutes. Your selected dog(s) will be scanned for their microchip at this time.
2. The DCO will tell you which dog will be tested, and will negotiate a time for testing that is typically at least one hour past the finish. It is HIGHLY recommended to take at least an hour due to the volume of urine that will be collected. You will also be asked, at the finish line, to have a representative with you. This could be a handler, team captain, or friend. You must remember your time once it is agreed upon.
3. The KEY THING is to put your dog away in a box for the entire time with adequate water, preferably baited. You may feed as per your regular schedule.
4. At your given time, YOU and REPRESENTATIVE and NOT THE DOG will go to the DCO hut which is marked with a sign. IF YOU MISS YOUR TIME THE CLOCK STARTS TICKING FOR VIOLATIONS AND IF YOU ARE AN HOUR LATE WILL RESULT IN A Positive. You never want that on your record.
5. Show up at the hut ON TIME with a photo ID. Be prepared for 10-20 minutes of paper work and training on how to collect urine. YOU will be the ONLY person to handle all of the collection containers and urine collection. Your representative will be with you to have a second pair of ears, and to handle the dog. Once your gloves are on, you are NOT permitted to touch anything apart from the collection container. The DCO will walk you through everything step by step.
6. You, your representative and the DCO will walk to your dog box/truck. You will put on your gloves and open the collection container which is a big cup with a handle. The dog will have to pee over 90 ml into the container. That is quite a lot. The handler is then allowed to remove the dog from the box and YOU must be ready to collect the pee. Don’t let your handler roam around with the dog on a leash.
7. If your dog can't pee enough, or if you drop and spill the urine, the clock resets and you will have to put away your dog with water for an hour, and lather rinse and repeat. The DCO is prepared to go through the night if necessary to complete a collection, and is required to have a headlamp.
8. Once the urine is collected your handler and NOT YOU puts away the dog. DONT TOUCH ANYTHING EXCEPT THE SAMPLE CONTAINER. Or the clock restarts..
9. Follow the DCO into the DCO hut, and be prepared for sample manipulation into special containers and 15+ minutes of paperwork.
10. Ask questions at any time. That is the way you learn. All personal questions and information will be kept confidential. There are huge amounts of rules etc. on the IFSS/Antidoping website, but learning real time is the best.
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