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How Drug Testing Works




The drug testing procedure is a process used to check athletes of almost any age or ability for the presence of prohibited substances in their bodies. It will be carried out by trained and authorised doping control personnel who will have to show their official identification when they first approach an athlete and before commencing testing.

Here's how it works:

1. Selection:
Athletes are randomly chosen or targeted for testing. They are notified and asked to provide a urine or blood sample for analysis.

2. Sample Collection:
Athletes go to a designated testing location where trained personnel collect their urine or blood sample. The collection process is
constantly supervised to ensure integrity.

3. Sample Analysis:
The collected samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis. Highly specialized technicians use advanced techniques to test for the presence of banned substances or their metabolites.

4. Laboratory Analysis:
The samples undergo thorough analysis using methods such as chromatography and mass spectrometry to detect even trace amounts of prohibited substances.

5. Results and Reporting:
Once the analysis is complete, the laboratory provides the results to the relevant anti-doping organization. The results are then reported to the athlete and their respective sports governing body.

6. Follow-up Actions:
Depending on the test results, further actions may be taken. If the athlete tests positive for a banned substance, they may face sanctions, such as suspensions, disqualifications, or other penalties.

If an athlete is under the age of 18, they are considered a minor and will be subject to a modified process that requires an athlete representative to be present at all times, as described on the UKAD testing process for minors page.



Expert Guidance

Dr Phil Hurst is a senior lecturer in Sport & Exercise Psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University. His main areas of research are doping in sports, the use of supplements, and the placebo effect. Phil competed for GB at international level as a middle-distance runner, primarily 1500m and 3k.

How Drug Testing Works:


How You Can Help


  • If your athlete is competing at a good level, become familiar with the testing format and make sure they understand it too.

  • Making sure your athlete understands exactly what will happen… before they face their first test can help to avoid stress. Knowing what will happen beforehand will prepare them if they are suddenly called up. For some, the first test can be a scary experience.

  • Know that testing can happen at any competition, training session, or at home… without warning.

  • For more information about the UK testing process, click HERE

  • What to expect from an in-competition anti-doping test click HERE

  • To understand an athlete’s anti-doping rights click HERE

Take Home Point

Ensure your athlete knows what to expect before they are approached for their first test. This is important because without knowing what will happen beforehand, this could be a scary and stressful experience. Even if your athlete is not yet competing at a high level of sport, have this conversation.

Ensure too that they know their rights, especially regarding the requirement as a minor to have an adult representative present.

Make sure they realise that tests will always be unannounced… it could happen to any athlete at any time.

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