Anti-doping Protocols at U.S. Trail Races  

By Allison Pattillo

August 19, 2016

Without testing, it’s impossible to know how widespread the use of PEDs really is in the mountain, trail and ultra world. When testing does happen, race directors are in the hot seat about whether or not to allow athletes who have served bans to compete. As trail racing grows, the historically laid-bad sport is being forced to do some serious self-assessment, much of which is being demanded by athletes.

Race directors are listening to the complaints, some saying racers may compete once bans are lifted, others saying runners may compete but not be eligible for prizes and others instituting lifetime bans from participation. The North Face now has a Clean Sport policy (read in full here) aand more and more races are creating their own drug policy statements. Another alternative is for races to apply and pay for USATF sanctioning, meaning they would then follow USA Track & Field (USATF) guidelines. USATF competition guidelines for those found guilty of doping range from temporary suspensions to lifetime bans. [MH1]

While this begins to address the issue of participation, testing at trail events is still uncommon. In 2013, the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon became the first U.S. trail event to institute a drug-testing program. They follow USADA standards and procedures. Many other races are now saying testing is a possibility, but may not yet be ready to commit to a testing program, a step recommended by USADA for events that support clean sport.

With ongoing discussions, policies will continue to evolve. This list includes examples of policies from some of the first trail races in the U.S. to introduce anti-doping language into their rules and regulations.


Western States Endurance Run

The Western States Endurance Run updated their rules with Performance Rule 18. They are taking a strict zero-tolerance stance, saying that no athlete “who has been determined to have violated anti-doping rules or policies,” will be allowed to entry WSER. They also state that pre- or post-race drug testing is a possibility.

Lake Sonoma 50

Lake Sonoma 50 takes the same stance as WSER, saying anyone who has violated anti-doping rules or policies is ineligible for entry. Pre- or post-race testing is a possibility.

Rainshadow Running

Rainshadow Running puts on more than a dozen races in the Pacific Northwest each year. Even though the race organizers “believe in forgiveness in general, and realize long trail runs can be therapeutic,” they will not allow people to run in Rainshadow Running events if they have received any sort of ban from WADA.

U.S. Skyrunner Series

These rare independent races that are organized by different race directors. But according to Ian Sharman, director for the series, four of the events have banned any past dopers from racing. Those races include: Whiteface Sky Race in New York, Kendall Mt. Run in Colorado, The Rut in Montana and the Flagstaff Sky Race in Arizona.

Aravaipa Running

This group hosts races in Arizona and Colorado ranging from 5Ks and Vertical Ks to 100-milers and a 6-day race. They do not have a stated drug policy. Instead they follow USATF rules that require them to ban athletes based upon a WADA ruling of a suspension or ban.

Ultra trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB)

To look at the situation on an international level, it makes sense to start with UTMB, whose policy states that drug testing is possible before or after the race. Athletes who are serving bans may not compete during that time. It was recently revealed that the fifth place finisher from 2015, Gonzalo Calisto, tested positive for PEDs. He has been disqualified from the 2015 UTMB, and is now serving a two-year ban.

Doctors are a First Line of Defense in Preventing PED Use

The return of PADS, testing protocols and next steps

By Allison Pattillo

August 17, 2016

When there’s a will there’s a way. And that certainly applies to athletes seeking prescriptions for performance enhancing drugs. Which is why Dr. Liz Joy, President of the American College of Sports Medicine, believes providing educational materials and resources about sports doping to medical professionals is critical to preventing abuse. ACSM organized Professionals Against Doping in Sports (PADS) in 2007 to do just that.

“It was at a time when the supplement world was exploding,” says Joy, who has been involved with PADS since its inception. “There was an increase of information and access and physicians were so far behind.”

Joy says medical professionals need to be educated in three distinct areas. The first issue is patients are coming to a physician with a set of symptoms that could be indicators of PED use. But, if the doctor is unaware a patient is doping, and they don’t think to ask (or if the patient withholds information), the physician is left to perform endless tests and much head scratching to determine what is wrong. Secondly, patients will specifically ask a doctor for PEDs. Joy says there is always going to be a bad apple that writes the prescription, but they need to understand that’s not the answer. The third way is more subtle, with patients requesting medication for depression, sexual dysfunction or ADHD without necessarily presenting the symptoms. Instead they are looking to score the questionable and non-indicated benefits of certain medications. With increased awareness physicians will know to ask more questions.

PADS worked with WADA and USADA to make information accessible to medical practitioners. One of the most used resources to this day is the drug information line for physician’s, a number Joy said she had on speed dial when seeing student athletes at the University of Utah. Doctors can also download Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) forms for those who have medical reasons to take some classes of drugs on WADA’s banned list.

Due to shifting jobs of those on staff and changing focus, PADS went somewhat dormant in 2013. But, according to Joy, in light of recent doping controversies, it’s time to bring it back.

“We need to figure out what to do so that the culture of sport says doping is bad,” Joy says. “It’s unethical and bad for your health. Health and ethics, that needs to be the focus.”

According to Joy, testing is a critical means of catching dopers.

“One of the things I found interesting over the years is that the athletes who are cheating and the sports scientists who are facilitating the cheating are one if not two or three steps ahead of mainstream sports medicine in this arena,” says Joy, who is also Medical Director, Community Health & Clinical Nutrition at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah.

And that is the reason for A and B test samples. Most sports federations allow for B samples to be held for a specified amount of time. The B sample allows for retesting with emerging technology to help close the information gap. Yet, as critical as testing is, it comes with a cost. And that price tag can be prohibitive, especially for smaller races, like many in the mountain, trail and ultra community. At sanctioned events, USATF informs which tests are needed. Then it’s up to the race to pay for testing. It comes down to what races can afford. The decision becomes testing more athletes for fewer substances or fewer athletes for more.

Joy says athlete safety is ACSM’s primary concern. If athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic level are seen doping, then the practice trickles down to college athletes, high school athletes and the greater community.

“The revitalized PADS will look to develop community standards for testing,” Joy says. “We need to start to ensure safety and a level playing field. Ultimately that’s what we all want.”

ATRA Works Towards Establishing Testing Protocol for Trail Races

An interview with Nancy Hobbs

Interview by Allison Pattillo

August 12, 2016


When it comes to sports and drug testing and policies, national and international governing bodies like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) reign supreme. Individual sports and athletic associations also offer insights into navigating the clean sport landscape. For mountain, ultra and trail (MUT) runners that role is filled by the American Trail Running Association (ATRA).

Nancy Hobbs, Executive Director of ATRA, and others in the MUT community, including Ian Sharman of the Sky Runner Series USA, Ethan Veneklasen, co-host of UltraRunner podcast and Adam Chase, President of ATRA, have been working with the USADA to establish a testing protocol for trail events.

Allison Patillo caught up with Hobbs by phone to learn more about the state of the sport and the efforts being taken to keep it clean.

Why are clean sport conversations happening now?
I’ve been in the sport for 30 years and this has never been on our radar. With more promotion and more support, brands are coming out and getting involved and the media is getting involved. It’s brought more of a spotlight.

More people are talking about it than used to because they are seeing it in other sports. If no one is talking about it, it’s not a thing. It transfers over, and is a residual effect of doping in other sports.

I think a lot of that has to do with athletes taking pledges similar to what road and track athletes have done. The voices are being heard that athletes are clean. We need race directors and brands to support them and confirm what’s happening in our sport.

What’s the process been like for you?
We had to investigate the cost and find out what we can do initially. We looked at if we had a full blow program and what would that cost and entail. Costs vary greatly depending what tests are used: out of competition, pre-competition or post competition. Then we need to determine if we are looking to catch the most people or deter the most people? We’ve decided our goal is to deter the most people.

What are the benefits of having races USATF sanctioned (a contract saying the race adheres to national and international rules and regulations) as it relates to athletes who have served or are currently serving bans because of using PEDs?
For me, I would rather sanction my event, so I don’t have to do any explaining or deal with handling situations on a case-by-case basis. You’re supporting your federation, the rulings of USADA and WADA, and aligning with and supporting the sanctioning protocol coming from above. It also keeps race directors from being put in awkward situations.

What is needed to help keep mountain, ultra and trail running clean?
We need to establish a testing program, determine what we need money-wise and figure out how we promote it. In a perfect world we would do testing at every event, but that’s expensive. Athletes have to buy in. The more athletes are outspoken about wanting testing, the more brands may think about stepping up to the plate to participate in programs that make sense.

What’s the end-goal with testing?
It’s to give athletes that are clean that piece of mind to know they are in a fair competition with other clean athletes.

Maybe I’m a little naïve. But I think our sport is doing pretty well. But is that because more athletes aren’t being tested? Having some of these parameters in place can only make it better. I feel pretty good about where the sport is. It’s a real testament when you have athletes and race directors volunteering to be on committees to address these issues.

What suggestions do you have for athletes who may be concerned about the testing process?
The first is to be educated about the process, the onus is on athletes to understand how testing is handled and to know what is on the banned substances list. Also, work with your coach and your doctors. Do you need a medical use exemption for anything? Athletes don’t need to be concerned about being tested, but they do need to be aware. It’s all about education, education, education, and being smart.

I have a friend who goes through the current list of banned substances from WADA with her doctor whenever she needs a prescription. You have to be responsible.