What is the Whereabouts System and how is it used by athletes?
The Whereabouts System, which is commonly referred to as ‘Whereabouts’, is used by anti-doping organisations to collect a range of details and information about athletes in order to support a comprehensive testing programme. Information collected from athletes includes overnight accommodation, competition schedules and any other regular activities they undertake such as training or work as well as a 60-minute time slot between the hours of 05:00 and 23:00 during which they must make themselves available for out-of-competition testing at a specified location. Athletes need to provide these details seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Athletes who provide Whereabouts are part of a Domestic Pool, are members of UKAD’s National Registered Testing Pool, often known as the NRTP, or an International Federations Registered Testing Pool, IRTP. Athletes supply their Whereabouts information using on an online system called ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration Management System).
What is the NRTP and are they the only athletes who provide their Whereabouts?
All athletes are subject to testing at any time both in and out-of-competition, but athletes who are part of the NRTP or UKAD’s Domestic Pool, must provide Whereabouts information to UKAD using ADAMS so they can be tested on a regular basis. Only athletes on the NRTP are required to provide a 60-minute time slot.
UKAD selects and decides which athletes should be part of the NRTP in consultation with the National Governing Body of Sport (NGBs). Currently, the UKAD NRTP contains athletes operating across 19 sports. However, additional athletes and sports can be selected or deselected at any time.
Many of the UK’s most high profile athletes live and train abroad. Does this affect how they are tested?
All athletes under UKAD’s jurisdiction, including UK athletes who live or train abroad, can be tested at anytime, anywhere in the world.
Many athletes will travel abroad for competitions or training camps, so UKAD works in partnership with a number of anti-doping organisations around the world to ensure athletes are tested when needed.
How often does an athlete need to update their Whereabouts?
Athletes need to provide their Whereabouts information in advance, once every three months, for the following three month period.
But a lot can change during that time, so athletes must update their Whereabouts if their schedule changes for any reason.
It is very easy to provide the information – if an athlete has access to a working mobile phone or laptop then they can update their Whereabouts information directly into ADAMS or via the ADAMS App. For any last minute or unplanned changes athletes can also text or email, up to one minute before the start of their 60-minute time slot.
Some high-profile athletes have called for 24-hour testing. Does UKAD test throughout the night?
Under the World Anti-Doping Code an athlete may be required to provide a sample at any time and at any place, including the middle of the night, without advanced notice.
However, testing authorities recognise that regularly testing athletes in the middle of the night may not be fair, so to test an athlete between the hours of 23:00 and 06:00, UKAD would need to have serious and specific suspicions that an athlete may be engaged in doping.
What is a missed test?
A missed test occurs when an athlete is not in their specified location during their 60-minute time slot. This does happen from time to time, however, it’s important to understand this does not necessarily mean that the athlete has deliberately avoided or evaded a test.
So how does UKAD determine whether an athlete has made a genuine mistake or whether they are trying to manipulate the system?
Providing Whereabouts can be challenging when athletes first become part of the system. UKAD supports athletes through this process via our dedicated Athlete Support Officer. It is their role to provide athletes with assistance relating to their responsibilities as part of the NRTP or Domestic Pool and to answer any questions or queries athletes may have whilst they are on the NRTP.
We recognise that mistakes happen – that is human nature – which is why an athlete will only be charged with a ‘Whereabouts Failure’, under section 2.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code, if they receive any combination of three missed tests or filing failures within a 12 month period.
Athletes who make genuine mistakes, such as forgetting to update their information and therefore accidently miss a test, are supported by UKAD to ensure they learn from their mistakes and hopefully avoid them in the future. It is important to remember that athletes who miss tests may not necessarily be evading testers or cheating deliberately; mistakes could be simple admin errors. It is for that reason that athletes need to accrue a combination of three missed tests or filing failures within a 12 month period to be charged with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation. If that does happen then an athlete can be banned for a maximum of two years.
Providing Whereabouts isn’t going to stop an athlete doping, so why bother?
You’re right – Whereabouts alone won’t stop an athlete cheating the system if that is what they decide to do. But it is an incredibly important part of a comprehensive testing programme as it allows us to test athletes on a regular basis, if we need to, as well as monitor patterns of behaviour and athlete movements.
If UKAD has reason to believe that an athlete is attempting to cheat the system, or is deliberately evading testing, then we have a number of other tools at our disposal to bring a case against an athlete. These tools include the collection of intelligence, unannounced out-of-hours testing and retrospective sample analysis.
Providing Whereabouts can be a tricky process but it is a vital component of UKAD’s work to ensure that all athletes can exercise their right to clean and fair sport.