Triathlon & Doping – Can you be tested?

Triathlon and Doping are not two things which you’d normally associate with each other. Being a sport which is so popular with amateur athletes, the temptation to increase performance by taking banned substances is very limited. The most pressure rests as always with the professional Triathletes rather than age-group racers. Even so, amateur Triathletes are still tested every year as part of a greater programme to keep the sport drug free.

During 2011, thousands of Triathletes took part in Triathlon Ireland sanctioned races across the country. Out of those athletes 12 Age Groupers were submitted for doping tests and all came back with clean results. In fact, of the 33 athletes who were tested during 2011 not a single athlete tested positive. This however does not mean the sport is completely free of drugs.  In February 2012 Portuguese athlete Sergio Silva was handed a 6 month ban for doping offences by the International Triathlon Union (ITU). As prize purses expand along with the growth on Triathlon, so too does the temptation to take risks in order to gain a competitive edge.

But should this topic be of interest to amateur triathletes?

Most Triathletes will never be submitted to a doping test, but the possibility still exists. With that in mind there’s no harm in knowing what the rules are, so we spoke with Triathlon Ireland to learn a bit more:


1: What’s Triathlon Irelands role in promoting an anti doping culture in Irish Triathlon?
Triathlon Ireland (TI) fully subscribes to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) procedures.  According to these, under the strict liability rule, athletes are responsible for any substance that may be found in their bodies. It doesn’t matter how the substance got there. If an athlete tests positive the result is a disqualification and possible sanction or suspension.

Triathlon Ireland Members      

·        Upon commencement of Triathlon Ireland membership, all TI members sign and agree to abide by the Competitive Rules adopted by TI and members acknowledge that membership may be revoked or suspended for violation of the Competitive Rules.

·        TI deliver anti-doping education outreaches at selected races throughout the season – In 2011 there were 4 outreaches – Limerick, Westmeath, Derry and Dublin.

·        Anti-doping section on TI website: with links to ISC and WADA’s Websites for further information.


2: Triathlon is a sport which is very popular with amateur athletes. Can amateur triathletes be tested for performance enhancing drugs at TI sanctioned races and does this happen? (national series races etc..)

The Irish Sports Council (ISC) Anti-Doping testing is the part of the National Anti-Doping Programme that acts as a broad deterrent to athletes to engage in clean, drug-free sport. In principle any athlete competing in a triathlon can be tested so each athlete regardless of the level at which they are competing needs to be aware of these guidelines.

·        Pre-test TUE: Athletes competing in International competitions and athletes on the International Triathlon Union’s Registered Testing Pool or the Irish Sports Council’s Registered Testing Pool must apply for a TUEprior to using a medication containing a prohibited substance.  A TUE form (and supporting medical file) must be submitted to the Irish Sports Council or the International Triathlon Union at least 30 days prior to competing while using a prohibited medication.

·        Post-test TUE: If you are only competing in domestic triathlons you may take a medication containing a banned substance without applying for a TUE upfront. If you are drug tested and the lab reports a positive result, the Irish Sports Council will contact you and ask you to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption within a limited timeframe. You will need to supply a complete medical file documenting your medical history, diagnosis and medical justification for using a prohibited medication as opposed to a permitted alternative.

No matter what standard of athlete, it is imperative that each athlete find out if they are allowed to take your medication while competing in triathlon.
The easiest way to check a medication is to look it up, as each athlete must check the status of their medications in the country that they purchased the medication:

·        Eirpharm (medications purchased in the Republic of Ireland)

·        Globaldro purchased in Northern Ireland)

·        ISC website  (This world map will assist athletes as they can click on a country to find out the contact details for the National Anti-Doping Organisation of that country, and most importantly the ‘Medications Check’ line indicates what resources are available in the country to check the status of medications bought in that country.


3: Is there any specific criteria that is used to decide who will be tested?

·        Registered Testing Pool athletes (Elite) can be tested anytime out of competition (ie at their home or training) by ISC  or in competition by ISC (Nationally) or  ITU (Internationally).

·        Age Group Athletes can be tested at random during national competition by ISC.


4: What are the sanctions which can be imposed on an athlete if they fail a doping test?

·        Suspension for failing a doping test means that a member will not take part in TI activities during a stated suspension period.
Suspensions will be assessed by the Disciplinary Committee, for lengths from three months to four years subject to ratification by the TI Board. After suspension, a competitor must make formal application for reinstatement.

·        A member will be expelled for a second drug offence as outlined in the ITU and the World Anti-Doping Agency Rules.

·        If a RTP athlete has three Whereabouts Failures in a rolling 18 months the athlete may have an alleged Anti-Doping Rule Violation which may lead to a minimum of one year ban from all sport.

·        An anti-doping rule violation may result in sanctions ranging from a formal warning to a life-time ban from sport.
Please see here for the Results Management process:

If the suspension or expulsion is for doping abuse, the competitor will not be able to compete in any other sport whose federation is recognized by the ISC and/or SNI.


5: How many athletes have tested positive for banned substances during 2011 and what level were they competing at?

·        No Athletes have tested positive in Triathlon Ireland in 2011.

·        Registered Testing Pool athletes (Elite) have been tested 13 times out of competition in 2011.

·        European Duathlon Championship Elite athletes have been tested 8 times in competition in Ireland in 2011.

·        Age Group athletes have been tested 12 times in TI National Competition races throughout Ireland in 2011.

Does this mean that regular age groupers can be tested for drugs?

When athletes sign up to Triathlon Ireland membership, all TI members sign and agree to abide by the Competitive Rules adopted by TI and members acknowledge that membership may be revoked or suspended for violation of the Competitive Rules. So if you’re a registered competitor taking part in an ITU or Triathlon Ireland sanctioned race then yes, regardless of your performance or ability you may be randomly selected for a doping test.

How many age goup Triathletes were submitted to doping tests last year?

Out of the thousands of participants in Triathlon Ireland sanction races in 2011, 12 Triathletes were tested for doping and out of that 12 nobody failed the test.

So there you have it!



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