Swimmers who are caught doping may face serious consequences. To make all competitions fair, FINA has established anti-doping rules. FINA has the goal of keeping aquatic sports “pure.” Healthy athletes compete against other healthy athletes. In order to participate in FINA-approved events, all competitors must follow the anti-doping rules, including being available for testing.

Countries that are members of FINA must comply with the organization’s doping rules. Countries agree to report all results of testing to FINA and to allow FINA to test their athletes at any time. Each country must make sure to conduct all national-level tests in accordance with FINA’s anti-doping rules.

In the United States, USA Swimming is responsible for ensuring that the doping regulations are followed. USA Swimming does not select which athletes are selected for testing. During competitions, every swimmer is subject to drug testing. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and FINA conduct the tests. When not competing, athletes who are National Team members, competitors at certain international events, those getting direct support from the USOC and USA Swimming, and swimmers who meet FINA’s established requirements for its Registered Testing Pool (have a top 25 world ranking and the top 10 finishers at certain Open Water swimming events) must submit detailed “Quarterly Whereabouts Filings.”

“Quarterly Whereabouts Filings” provide an athlete’s living address, training location, training schedule, regular activities schedule, competition schedule, and travel schedule. This is so athletes can be found for drug testing by FINA, the USADA, and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). All USA Swimming athletes can be tested when not competing; those in the Registered Testing Pool are tested regularly. To remain in the Registered Testing Pool, swimmers must consistently meet all criteria and be an active, competing swimmer. USA Swimming and the USADA notify athletes when they are added to or removed from the Registered Testing Pool.

Athletes are tested for a variety of substances including performance-enhancing drugs, illegal substances, and supplements. WADA has a list of all prohibited substances. The list changes periodically, so athletes should check the list or contact USA Swimming before taking any substance, including medications, supplements, and herbal products. Athletes on medication must check the status of all prescriptions before using them; athletes taking medication must fill out all necessary paperwork and have it on file with USA Swimming. Dietary supplements, herbal products, and other substances not regulated by the FDA are not considered medication. Athletes who take non-FDA approved substances are responsible for the consequences if a test result is positive for a prohibited substance. USA Swimming tells athletes they are responsible for what they consume.

There are consequences for testing positive. Depending on the substance and the athlete’s record, the athlete could be banned from competitions for life or sanctioned for a period of time. The athlete can appeal the decision and try to explain the circumstances of the violation. First-time offenders will be warned and reprimanded and can be ineligible for competitions for no more than a year. An athlete does not face a lifetime ban until the second or third violation.  If the substance was an illegal drug, then the athlete could be banned even if this is the athlete’s first violation. If an athlete violates the anti-doping rule during competition, the person will be disqualified from the event and can be banned or sanctioned.

To maintain “the spirit of sport,” the various governing bodies of aquatic sports take violations of the anti-doping policy very seriously. All athletes, including swimmers, must be aware at all times what they take into their bodies.