The life of an athlete, from the outside, may seem glamorous at times. But I assure you, most of the time, it is not – and I am not just talking about the dodgy sports gear that needs to be worn. One of the least glamorous parts of an athlete’s job is doping control!
The inspiration for this particular post comes from me finding approximately 30 doping control forms, safely filed away in a filing cabinet “just in case”. Every World Class athlete has been there (if not, your time will come) and, I assure you, every World Class athlete hates if.
I don’t know how to talk about this without telling you that doping control involves pee and a pot (or two… or maybe three if you’re really unlucky! Ahem). They can come for you, and your pee, at any time! Pretty much all athletes have to complete online forms to tell the lovely “doping control officers” where they’ll be at any given time and when is a “good” time to turn up. Then during competitions they are there, lurking in little rooms, deciding who to target next! Full credit to them, its not a job I’d choose, that’s for sure.
All athletes have their own doping control stories. Whether it be that they were unable to ‘go’ despite drinking 2 litres of water; or feeling shattered after a really hard training session looking forward to bed, only to see a woman with a UK anti-doping badge wandering towards you; or being woken up at 6am on your day off by a knock on the door and a woman saying ‘can I see some ID please?
In fact, these are some of my own stories. There are hundreds out there. As we head closer towards London 2012, doping control officers will be going into over drive! Before Beijing 2008, I was tested a grand total of 4 times in a single eight day period – twice at home and twice in competition. By the 4th visit I was not impressed! But, if it cleans up sport, I’m all for it!
I just thought I’d tell you the story of my worst ever doping control experience. Its funny now, but spare a thought for all our “glamorous” athletes that have to go through this kind of thing on a regular basis….
Durban, 2010: I’d just won the World Championship gold by 4 seconds! I was so happy. Well, I was, until a woman with a clipboard approached me, “congratulations! Sorry but you’ve been selected for anti-doping”. OK, I thought, I really could do with the loo, in and out quick, job done, lets go! However, I was also due to swim in the relay later in the programme. My competition coach was also head coach for our relay team, and he reckoned I didn’t have time to go straight away: after all, I needed to swim down, go to my medal ceremony and then prepare for the relay which was only an hour away! Fine, I’ll wait.
An hour and a half passed: we were still waiting to race! We were the very last race on so there must have been a hold up earlier on in the evening. Bear in mind, I’m drinking the whole time to keep hydrated. In we went, raced a brilliant relay, winning gold in the process. Two time World Champion, in one night, how awesome is that? Unfortunately, all I could think was “I really need the loo!”
Now, not only were we the last race of the evening, but we were the last race of the entire meet. So, we went to our medal ceremony and I thought I could head straight to doping control. Wrong! Team photo time! If you ever see any of the 100 versions of that team photo, you’ll be able to note my unease, shall we say!
I finally reported to doping control at 10pm. You’d be wrong in thinking my story ended there, oh no. As all the countries left the pool and the stewards began their clear up, I grabbed my chosen pot and ran to get the job done. Quickest time ever, I thought. However, in order for the lab to be able to do their testing properly, the doping control officer has to check the “quality” of the sample. If the sample isn’t up to scratch it has to be done again. You see, if you hold on long enough, and drink more than enough, you will just pee water!
11:45pm and three pots later, I stood outside with the team nurse trying to find away back to the hotel!
So, ladies and gentlemen, what have we learnt today? We have learnt that behind each and every gold medal in London this summer there will be celebration, there will be cheers and there will be media. But, there will also be a woman with a clipboard waiting patiently to say: “congratulations! Sorry but you’ve been selected for anti-doping”!