What Age-Group Triathletes Need to Know About Anti-Doping Rules

by Kelly O'Mara

Anti-doping is probably something you only think professional athletes have to worry about. After all, you just do triathlons for fun on the weekend! You aren’t doping! And, anyway, you aren’t even winning, so why would anyone care?

“It comes up more than it should,” said Tammy Hanson, the elite education director with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which USA Triathlon contracts with.

Her point is that when you become a member of USA Triathlon (or purchase a one-day USA Triathlon license to participate in a USA Triathlon Sanctioned race), you agree to follow USAT and USADA’s anti-doping rules.

And that goes beyond just agreeing not to take the performance-enhancing drugs that are obviously banned.

“They’re often surprised to find out there are 11 anti-doping violations and only one is a positive test,” said Hanson. For example, you’re also not allowed to retaliate against a whistleblower, you’re not allowed to possess banned performance-enhancing substances with the intent to use them, and (as a coach or support crew) you’re not allowed to support or help someone doping.

Of course, these probably aren’t the most common issues that come up for most age-groupers.

For most age-group triathletes, said Hanson, the biggest issue is just not realizing their over-the-counter medications or dietary supplements have banned substances in them.

“They’re surprised to find out there are over 300 banned substances,” she said.

For example, she said, pseudoephedrine (which is in certain decongestants) is banned. Some acne medications and inhalers are on the list. And even ADHD medications or insulin require special permission — called a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). Another one a lot of people don’t realize: Just getting an IV over 150mL isn’t allowed — because it can be used to mask prohibited substances and increase plasma volumes. (That doesn’t mean you can never get an IV. If you’re in a medical emergency or getting surgery, for example, then of course that’s an exception. But again, to be in the clear, you should contact USADA and get a TUE medical exemption afterwards.)

Dietary supplements, she said, can also be a problem for amateur athletes, because “they’re not regulated by the FDA.” That means there can be contamination from banned substances, or even substances included that aren’t identified or listed. And, it’s important to remember that supplements doesn’t just mean what you might traditionally think of—pills purchased from GNC; supplements also means vitamins, salt pills, and even drink mix.

As a triathlete, whether you’re a pro or not, you agree to follow all of these anti-doping rules. And, you agree to be tested: both in-competition at major championships, but also out-of-competition. Granted, out-of-competition tests don’t happen that often for age-group athletes. (Pros have to submit their whereabouts regularly.) But, if there’s a reason to suspect an age-group athlete or a need for an out-of-competition test, then an anti-doping official will obtain their address and test them.

Check your medications! The Global DRO database online ( is a system that allows you to type in your medications and see if they include banned substances. It’s updated regularly and maintained by multiple anti-doping agencies.

Use third-party certified supplements. While there’s always a risk with supplements, said Hanson, those that are NSF-certified are tested by NSF to confirm that what’s on the label is what’s in the bottle.

If you think you need a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), reach out to and a staff member will get back to you within three days.

See something, say something. USADA also runs a Play Clean Tip Center, where you can submit tips about anti-doping activity by email, text, mail, or phone.