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New Testing Method: Oral Fluid Collections

close up image of oral fluid collection device in mouth

Dedicated to innovation in anti-doping, USADA is introducing oral fluid testing, a pain-free, non-invasive collection experience that is being piloted both in and out-of-competition in the UFC Anti-Doping Program. This testing method is safe, reliable, and can be administered anywhere.

Collecting samples through the pilot program is critical to validating the sample collection process and analytical methods, as well as securing athlete feedback. World Anti-Doping Agency (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.

Starting on December 11, 2019, all UFC athletes, regardless of location, are subject to oral fluid testing. In preparation for your first oral fluid testing experience, here are answers to some of the questions you might have about the new collection method. You can also find a step-by-step guide demonstrating the collection process.

Oral Fluid Collection: Step-By-Step

Click below to view a PDF version

small version of oral fluid collection step by step graphic

The collection and analysis of oral fluid, or saliva, has advanced as a drug testing method in recent years. Oral fluid testing allows for non-invasive collections that are easy to observe and limit the potential for tampering.

USADA will collect samples using a small, easy-to-use oral fluid collection device designed to be accurate, reliable, and convenient. The device USADA will use at the start of the pilot program collects the approximately 1 mL of oral fluid needed for analysis in an average of 3 ½  minutes, and to prevent dilution, does not use artificial stimulants to increase saliva production.

oral fluids collection device

When the necessary amount of oral fluid has been collected, the volume indicator turns blue and the saliva collector is placed in a secure transportation tube. Athletes may not eat or drink for 10 minutes prior to collection.

Oral fluid testing comes with numerous potential benefits, including:

  • A pain-free and non-invasive collection experience for athletes.
  • Eliminates the need for gender-specific collection personnel.
  • Samples can be easily and quickly collected in a wide range of environments.

A major benefit of oral fluid testing is that it has the potential to detect in-competition prohibited substances, such as stimulants or cannabinoids, very close to their use and/or exposure. Accordingly, this may minimize the potential scenario where a substance prohibited in-competition only, that was used out-of-competition, would be detected during an in-competition test.

There are no known health implications or side effects associated with oral fluid testing.

USADA will use the pilot program to evaluate the accuracy and effectiveness of oral fluid testing. If oral fluid testing proves valid through the trial period, it could be used to complement urine and/or blood testing. During the pilot program, in order to compare results between different sample collection methods, athletes will likely experience multiple collection methods during one test session, such as urine and oral fluid testing.

Oral fluid samples will be analyzed at an independent, WADA-accredited laboratory. All samples will be identified only by an anonymous sample code number. If necessary, the laboratory will be provided information about which urine and oral fluid samples relate to the same athlete, but the athlete’s identity is not disclosed and is always protected.

During the pilot period, oral fluid sample results will not be reported. Samples will be used to evaluate the accuracy and effectiveness of oral fluid testing.

Oral fluid samples will be refrigerated for short-term storage lasting 2–4 weeks and may be frozen for long-term storage.

Once an athlete has been notified that they have been selected for testing, the athlete is required to provide the requested sample, regardless of collection method. As such, the same refusal consequences that exist for urine, venipuncture, and dried blood spot collections will apply to oral fluid collections.

For the period of the pilot project, only an A sample will be collected from an athlete. Depending on the outcomes, an A and B sample collection kit may be developed.

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