USADA has launched a pilot program for a new blood collection process designed to improve the athlete experience, enable more blood collections, and increase sample longevity. The process will utilize TAP™, the world’s first push-button blood collection device, and dried blood spot testing (DBS) as part of USADA’s larger effort to evaluate alternative testing methods.
The new program is initially being introduced to UFC® athletes, but WADA-accredited laboratories and other global anti-doping partners will also play an integral role in evaluating and adopting these revolutionary new technologies for programs and athletes worldwide.
Below are answers to the top questions about DBS testing and the TAP device:
DBS testing is another method, like traditional urine and blood testing, designed to detect and deter the use of substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List. DBS is also being investigated as a collection method that can measure important biomarkers that may be indicative of doping.
Moreover, DBS testing makes it easier to transport blood samples to WADA-accredited laboratories, and provides additional sample stability in storage for future analysis.
The TAP is a new FDA-approved blood collection device that is positioned on the surface of an athlete’s upper arm or other limb. With the push of a button, the blood sample is collected from the surface of the skin and securely stored within the device. The collection process typically takes less than five minutes and can be completed by a DCO.
The device collects about 20 times less blood than normally collected in a single vial during venipuncture. There are no known health implications or side effects associated with the TAP.
At most, the TAP device will leave a small ring where it was applied to the athlete’s arm. The new collection process should be quick and virtually pain-free.
DBS testing will become an additional blood collection method, and traditional venipuncture collections will continue to be used. Occasionally, athletes will experience both collection methods during one test session. This should not impact performance because the TAP collects just five drops of blood.
DBS provides USADA with greater ability to detect and deter doping by allowing for more frequent blood collections and improved sample transportation. More samples can also be stored for future analyses.
DBS samples will be analyzed at independent, WADA-accredited laboratories in the United States or abroad.
During the pilot period, DBS testing results may not be reported within the standard six to eight-week timeframe. Normal reporting times for traditional blood collection will not be affected, and as always, samples can be stored and selected for analysis at any time over the course of 10 years.