Thursday, April 13, 2017

Doping in professional triathlon?

I've become a voracious, near-obsessed, consumer of anti-doping news, policy, and history in the past year. Now that my own personal case has publicly concluded, I thought my interest would die or change, but it's become even more consuming to me. I'm interested in positive tests that come out, the athletes & federations involved, but even more so, I'm interested in the story. Why do people dope? What are the patterns within different sports? Why do some sports and nations seem "cleaner" than others? Where does triathlon fall in all of this?

One of my biggest fears with my own case, was that it helped solidify any skeptics beliefs that "even the nice triathletes are doing it". Don't get me wrong, I think that you can be a nice person and dope, however, I don't really think that you can be a good, strong person and dope without years of cultural brainwashing (similar to what we've seen in cycling). At some point, your moral compass has to switch direction, whatever the reason may be. What are the motives? What makes people finally say, "I can justify that this is 'ok' for me?"

My inner dialogue and conflict steers me towards analyzing two professional sports: Athletics (mostly long-distance running as it relates to triathlon) and cycling. Both of these sports are being torn apart by doping at the highest levels. In early April, it was announced that 2016 Rio Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist, Jemima Sumgong, had produced a positive out-of-competition sample for EPO. Reading past the headline story, it is easy to find the deep-rooted problems with doping in Kenyan athletics. A culture has been created where athletes, managers, agents, and doctors may see doping as the norm rather than the exception. For these athletes, winning a title could mean the difference between sending money for food home to Africa, or being sent home yourself. Out-of-competition testing has been historically spotty and shoddy in Kenya, only now being bolstered by the World Marathon Majors targeted testing, looking to protect it's titles, prize purses, and credibility. Last weekend, I watched the Paris marathon be dominated by Kenyans and I was decidedly disenchanted. Because even if the athletes are clean, we just don't believe anymore. And more than that, we feel for the clean athletes who are constantly placing 4th through 10th at these events and feeling like they just don't quite measure up, and silently knowing why.

Cycling... I don't need to explain the history of doping problems here, but recently, I've been avidly 'watching' the British cycling/SKY saga unfold. What I can see is a bunch of smoke screening, avoidance, and lack of accountability and evidence surrounding an issue (doping) that was supposedly solved in cycling years ago. Cycling is supposed to be clean now, right?

Here's my problem and what I'm grappling with on a personal level. Despite the deep-seated doping problems in sports that make up triathlon (running, cycling, and swimming with its own set of issues)...why do I personally believe the the vast majority of the world's top long-distance triathletes are clean? Am I some kind of idiot? Sure, you may think so, but I don't. This is not some kind of psychological omerta game, this is really what I believe. But why?

The way I can best lay it out is to say that when I look at the top performances and records at the Ironman World Championships and 70.3 World Champs, I believe that by and large, they are clean.
I originally had some # guestimates in here, but that's not fair because we don't really know. What I do think, is that Jan & Sebi don't look each other in the eye and think, "he's doping". That's a cultural difference in triathlon.

At the end of the day, the top professionals in long-distance triathlon do not inherently believe that "everyone is doing it". I have no idea what happened in triathlon in the 90's and the days before proper drug testing, including the test for EPO, but I do know professional triathlon now in 2017. And I believe in it now. I intimately know both men and women regularly in the top 10 in Kona and 70.3 World's and they are most certainly not doping. They also do not inherently believe that their competitors are doping. I could be wrong, but I think if you ask the top men and the top women, and the consistent performers, they'd say the same thing. Maybe not that "no one is doping" or maybe not even my estimates of cleanliness, but I bet they'd say that they'd like to believe the sport is mostly clean and that keeps them out there fighting daily. I don't really think anyone in marathon running would say that right now. I'd say that what is saving long-distance triathlon by-and-large is that the top performers truly believe that it is mostly a level playing field. That the competition is "real" and true and they, and only they, know that because they were able to achieve that high level and those accolades completely clean. And we're lucky for that. Ask any clean elite runner right now what they want most and it is probably, "to believe again". 

In professional cycling history, I know that many "nice" guys with seemingly good morals ended up doping. And the demographics of cyclists and triathletes are not very different, so shouldn't we expect the same in triathlon? The difference to me, is that the cyclists truly believed that everyone was doing it. In order to be at the top, you had to do it. And instead of cheating, you were merely leveling the playing field. That, combined with systematic team organizations with doctors and lots of money, I believe, gets different results than we see in professional triathlon, where most athletes are on their own with a very small (if any) support team.

I'm sure there are people reading this that think it's a bunch of bulls&*t and that I am incredibly naive to believe, but my argument is that this very belief is what is keeping the sport, at the top level, somewhat clean. The top athletes think, "If I accomplished that world title clean, these guys can too."

Why am I writing all this? Shouldn't I just shut up now and walk away? I don't know. But I do know that I've always had a passion for sticking up for what I believe in, even when it may not popular or "easy" for me. So, I'll keep doing it as long as I can.

That's it for my thoughts today... Next time, count me in for a "lighter" update on our recent travels, this baby growing inside me, and the sunny side of life in general.

*Disclaimer: this post represents my opinion. An opinion, by definition, is not categorically right or wrong. If you disagree with me, that's ok! Write your own piece about it- and voice your own opinion- you are absolutely entitled, but please respectfully also allow me to voice mine.

*I'm not touching on amateur triathlon here because I just don't know. I also feel like the sickening culture of "everyone is doing it" is starting to infiltrate some of the "middle-aged" age groups. Things like testosterone and HGH are being prescribed by doctors and "justified" by the athletes. More and more athletes do this and then you start to believe that you're the only one who is not doing it, and eventually for some people, that changes them. 



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day- in triathlon, it's more than just a finish line.

I may no longer be in the game, but I'll forever be impacted and inspired by the women who taught me the game. One of the things that drew me to pursue triathlon, more than any other sport I've played, was the connection I felt with individual women in the sport, even those I only knew 'from afar'. Playing field hockey and lacrosse in high school, I never had a role model or idol in the sport, and every win was a team effort, not an individual display of courage and perseverance.

When I met Triathlon, that changed for me. In the late-2000's age of blogging and internet expansion, I 'got to know' the heroes of the sport as well as those just hitting the trenches like me. Over the years, I got to meet many of them in person and learned more about their stories along the way.

I realized that the inspiration I have found in these women was never simply because I saw them win a race. These women inspired me for reasons that went far beyond grabbing a finish tape.

This International Women's Day, I want to recognize some of the women who have inspired me for specific, yet unexpected reasons. I read a fantastic article this morning about the 12 "great" women of our sport.

"Celebrating Triathlon's Powerful Women" from TriathlonWord.com

As I read along, I realized that many of these women are great to me for reasons that go far beyond their race resumes. I will always remember......

.....That time when I was just starting, that Michellie Jones stopped me mid pull-set in the pool and showed me exactly what I was doing wrong. Turns out you need to actually point the paddle down towards the bottom of the pool and push backwards, not just swish it aimlessly around. I still think of MJ's tip in every pull session I do.
Michellie is now also guiding Olympic Paratriathletes 


......That day when Gwen Jorgensen offered, without being asked, to take a picture with my daughter Wynne and her 2016 Olympic Triathlon Gold Medal.
Photo: Tommy Zaferes


...or that time in 2015,  when I watched Mirinda Carfrae toe the line of Ironman Melbourne only about 75% fit as she always saves her 110% fitness for Kona in October (she didn't publicize this, but we knew :) . She lined up professionally, gave it her all, on that day, and walked away with 7th place. She would have placed higher, but she spent the last kilometers helping her lifelong friend & competitor Annabel Luxford complete her first Ironman. Rinny stood back and cheered Annabel on to finish ahead of her.

Photo: Witsup.com
.....Oh, and then when  Rinny & Alicia Kaye set up an aid station in the pouring rain at the Island House Triathlon when there was a shortage of volunteers. Just to help.
Rinny & Alicia

....and all of the countless times that one of the most undefeated triathletes of all time, Chrissie Wellington, has always made her voice heard. Chrissie takes a stand on what she believes in, despite any controversy she may cause. She has stood less than 100 meters from the finish line of an Ironman for minutes, waiting to cross that line to ensure her deserving female competitors got paid that day (remember the crazy 8% rule?). She speaks up on women's equality in triathlon, despite disdain from the organization that benefited from her amazing athletic feats.

quote from the 220 Triathlon article linked above re: 8% rule


..and then there is every. single. day. when I see Belinda Granger, 13-time Iron-distance champion, working harder off the course for the future of pros, especially women, to leave the sport a better place than she found it. She truly wants the sport to be better for the women in the game now and our daughters of the future. (Ok, Belinda wasn't in the article above, but she probably will be one day!)

...finally, even the "little things", like how following her retirement, Emma Snowsill ( 2008 Olympic Triathlon Gold Medalist) became a self-proclaimed "rent-a-runner" in her local Noosa, Australia community, helping up-and-comers in ITU and Ironman complete their tough track sessions and long runs, just for the love of the game.


Photo: Frank Wechsel



I have similar stories to share about Kathleen McCartney, Linsey Corbin, Meredith Kessler, and countless others..... But I'll leave you to create these stories and memories for yourself. This International Women's Day, I'm truly inspired by all of these sporting greats who have made triathlon more than just a sport. Thank you all!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

More to say...

I'm back. Not, "I'm back!" in any sense of declaration of triumph. Just that "me", I am back. I'll continue to talk about my case when it is pertinent, but am going to leave the direction of this blog open for now.

Part 1: Personal stuff. Skip to part 2 if you want to read my recommendations for athletes.

I've still woken up in tears every morning since the announcement, but the tears now are different. Tears from reading emails (several hundred in support, one "i can't support or condemn you" just this morning in my inbox, and zero from the negative camp.) It seems email is too direct for the keyboard warriors, even with an invitation. A recurring theme in the emails I received was that people did not want me to quit the sport because of this. So I will explain: My reasons for 'retirement' were twofold- 1) I will be 38 with 2 kids and hopefully a new job by the time my sanction is up. Not impossible, but let's say not ideal for pro competition. and 2) I believed I would not be welcomed back into the sport by the general pro community. I never did this sport to prove anything or spite anyone, so feeling unwelcome on a start line was not a position I planned on putting myself in. However, I can say that with the responses I have received, I would no longer feel uncomfortable. And I thank you for that. For now, though, I am happy to be welcomed to the sidelines and to cheer on Luke and the many I have made connections with.

I did not in any way expect the level of support that I have received both inside and outside the triathlon community. I was sad to see that the news reached my childhood friends and former colleagues, but I knew that was likely going to happen with choosing a blog post over a press release that would only make it into the triathlon media. I've always used this page as a platform, so I thought that was the best way to be me, even if it invited more scrutiny from the cynics (the more you put out there, the more they can use against you). I think a lot of the support I had from within triathlon and my peers was also due to the fact that the WTC released a second anti-doping sanction on the same day as mine. Lauren Barnett, a fellow female pro, was handed a six-month ban for ostarine, the same substance. Through testing, they found ostarine in her salt pills- not only Lauren and her lab, but the WTC tested the brand in a WADA-accredited lab and found the ostarine. I learned about her case along with everyone else and was shocked. Turns out we used different salt pills. Lauren's ostarine was actually found in TWO lots (different batches/#s) of salt pills - which means they were probably not produced at the same time. Which begs the question (to me)- Is this a raw ingredient problem? Is one of the six ingredients (e.g. sodium citrate) used in her salt pills tainted and sourced from a supplier where other salt pill or electrolyte drink manufacturers source their sodium citrate? I don't know enough about the sourcing or raw material process to know...but it has opened up some more thinking on my end. If anyone has insight to this, please email me. A little bit about the start to finish supplement process in this article: "Safe Dietary Supplements?"

Despite all the support I've gotten, I've seen some negativity, as to be expected in my case. The public has been lied to so many times in doping cases, that it would be naive to think that my "story" alone was proof of my innocence in the eyes of those who have been duped before. What I want to say is this: Despite what the critics read between the lines, there is no "woe is me" here. I tried to present the facts and take my emotionality out of it. Did I mention my past drug testing history? YES. The critics see this as explaining away my one positive test, the one that counted. I wrote about my history to let those who may not know, know what the drug testing in general might be like for a pro at my particular level (not top, not bottom). This was not my first test. I am someone who expects to be tested at races and outside of races- that was the 'fact' I was presenting. Let me be straight here: My past testing history doesn't matter in the scheme of if I 'could be' doping. Anyone CAN dope at any time, we know that right? What I was asking for, was for the people who wanted to think for themselves, to think, "IF I were a doper, and I WANTED to dope in the 3 weeks before my "A race" when Beth could have done it.... A) would I? would this be a smart decision for a generally 'intelligent' person? and B) Is ostarine the substance that I would choose instead of something we know would work, like EPO, in this massive massive risk?" I can't answer those questions for you, only for myself. And the ones who do not want to believe me will not take the time to really consider this.

So.. moving on..

Part 2 
I want to start talking about what we can do to make things better for all the athletes out there. First, I am 'talking' to pro athletes & top amateurs who may be tested. I will make later recommendations for all, but these first ones I think are the most time sensitive in that these people could be tested at any time. Basically, what follows is probably not that interesting unless you are interested in the sport and drug testing:

1. Take the process seriously. This is not a 'routine check' or a 'screening'. This is your career and reputation. Anything you take should be saved and lot numbers recorded. In my case, notification of my AAF took almost six weeks (5wks 5days). I noticed in Lauren's it took 2.5 weeks. n things like UFC fighting, it seems they get results in one or two days. I believe we deserve standardization on the notification process and should push for a timely manner, especially considering the nature of our sport, where it would be very difficult to do a full-distance triathlon without some type of supplement (electrolyte, gel) at the very least. I I hope that if someone else finds themselves in my position, that they have read this and chosen to save EVERYTHING until they received test notification.
2. Pay attention during the testing process and exercise any rights you have. Declare every single thing you have taken on your declaration form, including electrolyte drinks, gels, and any on-course supplements. I hadn't considered this in the past. Who cares if you "look silly". Do it.
3. I am not sure where this falls, as it is personal, but I would love to see athletes fight for our rights in access to information throughout the anti-doping process. The anti-doping organizations mostly get it right, but they are fallible. And this is our career. In my case, I requested to see the "A sample" lab packet immediately. The only thing I was given regarding my positive test was a "one-sheet" that said I had a positive for ostarine. NO levels of "how much" were disclosed, and NO further information. Behind the scenes, there was a 47 page documentation packet that included all this information. I requested to read this packet and was not given access to any further information beyond the one-pager that basically says "you tested positive for ostarine". I was told that I would be given the full documentation packets after the B sample was tested (I received A & B packet documentation on August 18th, 2016, more than 2 months later). Imagine my shock when in sifting through the packets, I found that during urine preparation, someone else's urine, had spat into mine. The lab technician wrote, "2300 didn't go through in vacuum first go after hydrolysis so had to push through. spat out during process so may have contaminated 'very little' in 2297 and 2294. "Well, guess my luck, I am sample 2297 (as you can see on the identification page in the link here to these excerpts from the documentation packet). This is not to insinuate that maybe the ostarine was from another sample, as apparently the B sample contained ostarine as well. However, I was not there for the opening of the B sample (you have the right to be there, or a representative). As I was in America, this was not feasible and I trusted the process. I requested a personal expert representative via my attorney, but was he unable to locate one.

I bring this up, because as tested athletes, is this the way you want your urine samples treated? Is this the level of information disclosure you would expect to receive in my situation? Personally, finding out about this "spillage" into my urine was disconcerting as I would have gotten myself on a plane and pushed even harder for an expert representative at my B sample opening. Of course they didn't put a tiny bit of ostarine into my B sample to match the A, right? right? I should have been there. Knowing what I know now, I'm devastated that I wasn't there.

4. People have asked me if you can trust the on-course nutrition. I just can't say.  WTC events in North America currently use Gatorade Endurance, which is part of PepsiCo, . As a result, they are classified as food, rather than supplements and must adhere to strict U.S. FDA guidelines. I would trust this product. Unfortunately, this is not the case at WTC events around the world and many regional gels and drinks are used have different standards. I know I had concerns at IM Australia and tried to test the on-course drink but was not permitted. I have also been contacted by all three of the other tested athletes at IM Australia; Two did not drink any of the on-course electrolyte and one said, "yeah, maybe a swig here and there but I can't remember"- this was also a large man who may metabolize a contaminant different than my 50kg body at the time. This is not an accusation, merely a conversation I think is worth having. The only way to protect yourself as an athlete is to research the on-course nutrition ahead of time and come up with your own plan. 

Ok, that's all for now! I am working on a new project and after dedicating the better part of the last 3 days to responses and discussion, I need to get back to work!

Friday, February 3, 2017

The greatest disappointment of my life

I have something important, and difficult, to say....

After 7 months of tireless investigation, I am devastated to report that six weeks following my race at Ironman Australia on May 1, 2016, I was notified of an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) resulting from my in-competition drug test at the event for trace amounts of a substance called "ostarine". Ostarine, a WADA-banned substance, is a muscle-builder that is currently under investigation by the FDA after being found as a contaminant in multiple dietary supplements. 

As athletes, we are subject to "strict liability" in matters of anti-doping, meaning we are ultimately responsible for everything in our bodies, no matter how it got there. The penalty for an intentional anti-doping violation is a four- year suspension. Following a lengthy and expensive investigation on my part, the WTC (World Triathlon Corporation) has agreed that based on the evidence presented, my ingestion of ostarine was unintentional, meaning that I had absolutely no knowledge that the substance was in my body. However, without a definitive answer to the exact source of the ostarine, despite exhausting all options, I will still serve a two-year suspension from the WTC, which is the minimum possible sanction without definitively proving the  source of the ostarine. I do not intend to compete or return to professional competition as this has not only ruined my career, but my spirit as well. I will not say that I will never again toe a start line, as I hope one day to join my children in a turkey trot or fun run, but at this point, that is the extent of it. 

Ostarine contamination (being present in supposedly "safe" products where it is not listed), whether on or off-course, is a serious issue and I encourage you to read my full story below so that I may help others avoid the circumstances in which I have found myself. In the end, I take responsibility to act in accordance with the rules that I signed up for as a professional athlete, but I am still left with some questions, which I hope one day will be answered. 

To those who believed in me, supported me, or competed with me. I am sorry. Losing triathlon in this way, not the competition, but the lifestyle, the people & "myself", is the biggest disappointment of my life. 


So... How did I get here?

Well, a few background things for you to know: 
*I am a staunch anti-doping advocate and have spoken out publicly in the past against dopers (who are probably laughing at me) and for lifetime bans in sport for convictions. 
* I am in the USADA out-of-competition testing pool, meaning I make my whereabouts known every single day and am subject to drug testing at any time or location.
* I have never had a TUE (Therapuetic Use Exemption) for a banned substance or a whereabouts filing failure.
* I was tested less than 4 weeks prior to IM Australia, with clean results, when I placed 4th at Malaysia 70.3 on April 5th.
*The literature on ostarine indicates that it is a substance that one would "cycle" for 6-12 weeks for results. I do not believe it would assist you during an Ironman competition at all as it is a muscle builder. It has a half-life of 24 hours, which would make it detectable in urine for somewhere (I have read conflicting things) between 24 hours and 5 days. 
*As one of the race favorites for IM Australia, I fully expected to be drug tested not only on race day, but also likely in the week leading up to the event.
* I am a mother, but also one who hoped to have more children in the future. Aside from my strong anti-doping approach to sport, I would never take a potentially dangerous substance like ostarine.
* There is a significant and real issue in the world with ostarine contamination that has yet to be resolved. The ingredient is not listed on products, but may make its way into a legal/harmless supplement via tainted raw ingredients or careless manufacturing (e.g. not cleaning machines properly).
*I took (and passed) a licensed polygraph that specifically addressed taking ostarine or any performance enhancing substances. 
*I do have never taken any type of "red flag" supplement according to the criteria listed on the USADA website here.  I have taken electrolytes/salt, caffeine, whey protein, melatonin (for sleep), and energy gels (some including amino acids/caffeine), which are all considered supplements. I have taken significant care & precaution in researching each product I have taken prior to consumption.

Upon first receiving an email notice from WTC in mid-June 2016, my first reaction was disbelief. Although I have had at least nine in and out-of-competition drug tests since 2013, I never actually considered a scenario where a test would be positive. I, naively, looked at every blood or urine test not as an inquisition, but an indication that I was "good enough" to be tested and I was always enthusiastically proud of myself to be selected. During drug testing, I treated it similar to airport security- a serious, but non-threatening system and process designed to keep me safe and catch those trying to ruin sport.  

I didn't tell Luke about the email for two days because we were literally on the eve of his "A" race- Ironman Cairns, and knowing (or thinking I knew) that I hadn't taken anything "sketchy" and that he was not taking any 'supplements', I was not worried for him. I wanted him to focus on his day and I was also certain that there had been a mistake. It takes an "A" and a "B" sample (both from same day/urine) to both come back positive and I was sure that the B would not confirm the A. 

A few days later, I contacted an attorney, and although he said he could help, he didn't sound optimistic that the B sample would show a different result and encouraged me to prepare for the worst. He mentioned several recent cases of ostarine contamination and that it was a serious issue facing supposedly ‘clean’ supplements.

This meant, first of all, sending anything I had come in contact with to a lab for testing. Although I do not take a myriad of dietary supplements, similar to many long-distance triathletes, I supplement during my long-distance races with electrolytes, salt, and caffeine. In my daily life, my only supplements are 100% Whey Protein from a 'trusted' source and melatonin to sleep. Each supplement I have taken is from a reputable company that sponsors many high profile athletes, ensures GMP (good manufacturing practices) and has 3rd party testing. They all proclaim to be "banned-substance free" and take care in assuring this to their consumers.

I had a different idea of what "supplements" are prior to this. Now, I know that the gel I take on-course IS A SUPPLEMENT as it may have added caffeine or amino acids or electrolytes. Most standard electrolyte drinks are supplements if they come in powder form (not Ready to Drink bottles- then it's a beverage). Salt pills? Even if it's just table salt in a capsule, it is a supplement. Did you know that in 2016, a popular energy gel in Australia tested positive for a banned substance? And this gel is still listed on the Australian Institute of Sport website as an available energy gel for athletes? The problem has been resolved and the company took full responsibility, but that doesn't change that there was an unintentional problem on the company's end. 

As I was on my way to the United States by the time I was notified of the AAF by the WTC (6 weeks seemed quite a long time to wait to notify someone who will need to recall and produce exactly what was put in their mouth before and during a 9+ hour race), I had to contact family to retrieve what I had left at our home in Australia and send it in to the lab. I also purchased unopened bottles/canisters of everything I could and sent them in as well to begin testing.

In early August, I was notified that my B sample was returned positive for ostarine with a similar trace amount (According to the lab packets, A &B ranged from 7 to 11 nanograms/ml- a nanogram is one-one-millionth of a milligram) . At that time, I returned my Kona slot in time for the final July qualifier (it was allocated to me as I had not yet been "sanctioned" of anything- and I actually would have been allowed to keep it until race day, but that, of course, did not seem fair or appropriate to me). 

From July to November, supplements were tested one by one (it is an incredibly lengthy and expensive process- each testing took 4 to 8 weeks depending on the product). I tested not one, but 3 (in most cases) bottles or packages of anything that could have possibly passed my lips. I left nothing unturned. In late October, I received a call from my attorney. They had found it! There was a "presumptive positive" for ostarine on an unopened package of salt pills that I had sent (these salt pills were in small sample packets with only a few pills per packet). The lab said that they needed to do "confirmatory testing" but that we could be optimistic with the finding, so we sent in more packets. My attorney has only ever called me once during this whole process (usually I call him or we email), but on that day, in the nail salon, I got a call- and finally it was good news. 

 I spent the next 4 weeks still destroyed, but at least at peace with that we had found the exact cause of my positive test. Unfortunately, in early December, I was notified that the lab was unable to "confirm" the positive finding on subsequent packets of salt pills. The report said that the detection in the two different samples of salt pills was either ostarine at a level that was "too low" for definitive detection or "an artifact". In a 3rd sample, they found 'no ostarine' (I have included the lab summary packet in the bottom of this post).  To this day, I cannot make sense of this. How can you get a positive for "something" on a substance that should really only be salt, and then have it disappear or become an artifact? Since the salt pills were in small sample packets, I suppose the times at which they were produced in the production line could have impacted whether some packets were contaminated and others were not. I can't help but think it may have been different had I had just one large bottle containing more pills that were produced at virtually the same moment. The lab couldn't say with 100% certainty that there was ostarine in the salt pills, as I understand this would hold some legal implications. 

So, I went back to the drawing board as this process requires strict liability (guilty until proven innocent) on the athlete, we needed concrete proof of how it was ingested to determine the athlete's 'degree of negligence'. I was willing to do anything to prove my innocence, so during this time period, I also took a polygraph as we were preparing a case brief for a formal hearing with WTC and an arbitrator who would decide the case. 

 To complete the supplement testing and try to close all doors, I even tested Gatorade Endurance- my sponsor at the time (which was not contaminated) as well as a random canister (from a pharmacy) of the brand/flavor of on-course drink (not Gatorade) that was served at Ironman Australia. In August 2016, I learned that another female pro triathlete, Lisa Marangon, also tested positive for ostarine at a race exactly three months before mine, also in Australia. Although Lisa believes that her case was sabotage, and it very well could have been, our cases have two similarities: Neither of us could pinpoint the origin of ostarine, and both races served the same on-course hydration beverage. I do not yet know if she was taking any salt pills or other supplements. Lisa is currently serving a four-year suspension and it has also ended her career. 

After doing research of the on-course drink, the safety standards of this electrolyte drink are no higher than anything I have personally taken and there are no additional lengths taken to ensure safety for competitors (I can't find any evidence of batch testing, etc). Although the drink powder is produced "in-house", that in-house manufacturer also manufactures for at least 5 other supplement companies and hundreds of different supplements.

At the race site, batches are likely mixed from powder and water in the morning of the race. Although none of the three other competitors who were drug tested at my race tested positive, I know that that doesn't categorically mean that it wasn't on the race course. Personally, I took two 20+ oz bottles of the on-course drink- both from the same aid station on the bike. On a course with 10+ aid stations over 70 miles (race is 140.6 miles but you do some laps), it is not necessarily likely that these competitors who were tested took the on-course electrolyte at that SAME (& relative same time period) aid station rather than cola, water, or nothing. Sharing the course with over 2000 competitors (an IM & a 70.3), batches may be used and cycled throughout the day. 

I am not saying that this is how the ostarine entered my body (as I do believe it was the salt pills), and even I believe this sounds far-fetched, but I believe it is possible. After my exhaustive search in finding an answer from my end, I need to bring this up as a potential concern as the door is not closed. I made a formal request to the WTC to test, or give me information to test, the exact lot numbers (batches) of the drink that were used on course, but my request was denied. Whether they could not or would not supply it, I don’t know, but this was incredibly frustrating and again left me feeling powerless. Dead end. 

In the end, on some level, I need to take responsibility because it is my body and per the rules, I am responsible for what goes into it. I believe that the evidence points to the fact that I would never choose to take a performance-enhancing substance and I hope that some people, I know not all, but those who know me, will believe me. For those who don’t, I understand. We should be skeptics when it comes to doping in sport, and we have been fooled too many times to believe every story. I, for one, cannot say exactly how I would react if I read about this from one of my competitors. I also don’t think I should be believed because I “seem nice” or because of my nationality or background. I want people to look at the facts that we do know, and decide for themselves.

To my sponsors, family, friends, and competitors who have been inadvertently hurt by my case, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. To Michelle Bremer, Dimity-Lee Duke, and the other women who raced Ironman Australia- I will absolutely call you the true winners and I am devastated that this was in my system, however it got there. Michelle, I will get you the trophy. 

The most difficult moments for me have not been missing the start lines. The things that hurt the most have been saying “no” to speaking on several women’s panels & podcasts and retreating from my authentic self who enjoys sharing and growing with others, especially on social media.

For me, triathlon was never about winning, or even really racing. It was about connecting, pushing, believing in myself and finding a lifestyle and the people that I never knew existed before I was 28 years old. From the day I hopped on my bike and started my blog, I fell in love with the holistic sense of triathlon. I can honestly say that winning was never my motivation. I didn't even believe that I had to win "for my sponsors" or even for my family. I truly believe that from the beginning, my sponsors have been there because of who I am and how passionate I am about promoting women in sport, not how many wins I have tallied. For letting you all down, I am deeply sorry. 

I have several ideas to help other athletes avoid the situation I found myself in and will detail those in a coming post. I will also be contacting both USADA and the WTC to discuss what we can both do to protect clean athletes and the integrity of the sport. I am determined to find some greater good from this. 

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to reach out to me at bethgerdes1@gmail.com with any thoughts, critical or not. I can take it and I expect it. I don't plan on doing interviews (and I am sorry for those I have blown off in the past 6 months- I didn't feel 'myself' and now you know why). I feel I have said here all that I need to say, and now I need to focus on moving on. I have steeled myself for this moment for months, and I know the coming days won't be easy. In some way, with the love of friends and family, I will continue in a different direction, and find a new way to make a positive impact.

Sincerely and wholeheartedly, 
Beth

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The link below will take you to the summary document the lab sent to us showing the low levels of ostarine (or a molecule that "looks like" ostarine) in 2 samples of salt pills, but not a third (again, I didn't have one large bottle, just various small sample packets  to test so each pack or combination of packets could have been different). This was not enough evidence for the WTC to lower my sanction. 


https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3as8PinK4ciZGhkckJrUnI2dG8/view?usp=sharing




The words in this post are my own and should not be used for re-publication without my written consent. 


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

a little update

McKenzie Pass 2016


"I can't believe it's August already" - shit girls say

But really, I can't. I'd love to say it's been a great summer so far, but it's honestly been a tough one. Just as I was hopeful that things were starting to pick up again, I got another doozy. I'll "cut" to the chase (there is a pun there...wait for it.) I have a pretty large cyst that needs to be removed with a minor surgery. As it is in the 'saddle region'- no cycling for 4 to 6 weeks. Just under 10 weeks out from Kona, that's a deal-breaker for me, especially on top of all the other things I have going on right now. So, although I accepted a July qualification spot, I am returning that slot to another deserving woman.
Yes, this is a big disappointment for me, but I am trying to remind myself that I still have an amazing husband, daughter, family and friends and that life will go on.

In the meantime, I'm doing my best to make sure that Luke is ready for his big day on the big island in October (and 70.3 world champs in September). We are currently stationed up in Bend, OR for the month of August for training camp, and although I won't be riding with Luke, I plan to be chief run buddy, strength coach, and swim motivator (once I am allowed back in the water).

I did get to enjoy one lovely (though slightly uncomfortable) week on the bike here in Bend and ticked off all the old favorites including Mt. Bachelor and McKenzie Pass. I guess now there is more time for river floating with coolers of beer, right ;) ?

Friday, July 1, 2016

bits and pieces, june 2016



reflecting //
on the best time of my life. On May 12th, 2016, I married my best friend, Luke. I am so incredibly grateful to have found a partner who is kind, loving, loyal and the most amazing father to our daughter, Wynne. We had a very small wedding on the beach in Noosa, Australia and it was truly the perfect day. We didn't over-plan anything and just took the day as it came. It was relaxing and laid-back with good food & wine.









adapting //
I originally returned to training, thinking I would race Ironman Switzerland in late July. However, things don't always go according to plan, and I am now taking a mind and body break. Sometimes life gets in the way and you need to adjust your sails. Hoping to get back on course soon and will keep you posted. Please hold.



enjoying // 
Some extra time with Wynne and my family. We took a trip to Chicago for Wynne to get some cousin time and good old midwestern USA summer fun. Popsicles, sprinklers, hopscotch, and good times. It has been great to spend some quality time with my sister, brother, and niece and nephew.

look! airplane! 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ironman Australia 2016 - race report

My world exploded a bit when I tried to fit Ironman Port Macquarie, a trip to Vietnam, and our wedding all in a period of less than 2 weeks (12 days to be exact.) Hence, this tardy blog post. (Oh, and more on the wedding soon!). Often, my race reports are filled with drama about the lead-up and the actual race... For once, though, s$%t actually went according to plan. So please excuse me while I bore you. 

Normally, my race builds are less-than-perfect. I can’t really say that about Ironman Australia. For the first time, everything fell into place training-wise in the 10 weeks before the race. Luke completed nearly all of my tough bike and run sessions with me or as a carrot in front of me, giving me the confidence that I was doing the sessions day-in and day-out that would matter in the end.  I didn’t get sick or injured. I not only completed all of my swim, bike, and run sessions, but I fueled them all properly (thx Gatorade Endurance!), got weekly massage, focused on my functional strength training sessions each week and put getting 8+ hours of sleep high on the priority list. My 2-year old daughter goes to sleep every night by 8pm and so do I. I did all of the big things, and the little things. I'm going to do a follow-up post with the training nitty gritty that went into this race. 

Ironman Australia played out nearly exactly how I envisioned it could if I had my best day and the day I had prepared for. Here's how it went down:

Obviously, I am not going to swim with the leaders. But to come out of the water in :56-something solidly under 1 hour set me up less than 5 minutes from Gina Crawford who led the race out of the water (it is quite a fast swim due to salt water, good conditions, & wetsuits, but still a legit one length-wise).

And we're off



 Gear Note: Swim 
I'm quite certain it was no coincidence that I had my fastest-ever Ironman swim in my new ROKA Maverick X. It seriously feels like you are not even wearing a wetsuit but you know you must be as you glide along effortlessly (ok, for me wriggling around there is always some effort, but much less in this suit!) Also, I chose ROKA light amber F2 goggles- they have worked perfectly for all my races so far which start in low light and they have a great field of sight. 

Testing out my new Maverick X the day before the race

“But you were almost 13 minutes down after the bike? How is that your best day?” Look, in my world, that can be the reality. My job is to come prepared for it and run my brains out. Although Michelle Bremer rode faster than me, I had a fantastic ride that went about as well as a solo 180km can go and it replicated what I knew I could and should execute from my training sessions. 
Saying hi to Luke on Matthew Flinder's hill 
Werk (photo: Witsup) 

I nailed my target power, I nailed my target nutrition (thank you, Gatorade Endurance and Gatorade Sports Science Institute!), and in the end, I rode 2 minutes faster than my “I think I can ride a 5:15 on this course” prediction. I had the second fastest female bike split which is huge for me. I didn’t really hit a low spot and I kept my power consistent on the 2nd lap and finished strong. Most of all, I finished fresh and ready to run my ass off. (p.s. – it was rainy, blustery, and chilly but whatever). I did waste a minute or so with a Special Needs kerfuffle.. The Special Needs tent on the bike was placed at the crest of a hill. I couldn't exactly fly down the hill with my bag of Gatorade Endurance bottles, so I had to stop, unclip, regroup, etc. I typically don't stop for Special Needs, but I wanted to make sure I had my own G Endurance instead of trying something new on course. (If you're in North America, you're lucky as Gatorade Endurance is the on-course fluid). 
International symbol for, "GIMME WATER!!!!!!!" Photo: Witsup
photo: Witsup

Gear Note: Bike
The setup I went with for this race was exactly what I would choose if I did it again: SCOTT Plasma 5, Enve 7.8 carbon clincher wheel set with 25mm Continental GP 4000 tires, SRAM red eTap components, Quarq powermeter, Endura QDC aero tri suit, ISM PN. 1.1 saddle, Speedplay pedals, SCOTT aero helmet & SCOTT Tri pro shoes & Ceramic Speed Ultrafast Optimised chain. 

I would say that this is a course where having SRAM eTap electronic gearing made a significant difference. Due to the nature of the terrain (lots of short, swoopy rollercoaster-type hills), being able to shift seamlessly on the base bar as well as in the aero bars made a significant difference. ETap has been a game-changer for me. 

A HUGE Thank you to Trilogy Cycles for taking care of me in Australia. Trilogy, like Nytro back in Cali, is a SCOTT dealer and Keith and his crew are incredibly helpful. I always love it when the owner is a triathlete himself- you know he "gets it!" 


All the race recaps from IMOZ say it was “all about the run” as both Tim and I ran down significant deficits, but for me, it was all about the swim and bike. All day I stayed patient, strong, and within myself in order to set myself up for that run. I rode from 5th place into 2nd place during that ride  which is a big win for me. The swim miles and the bike miles that I put in in training are what I really feel deserve the credit for that 2:56:10 marathon, not any secret run sessions or crazy run intensity or mileage. I got off the bike, heard the time gap, and got to work. My legs felt amazing, it was ridiculous. The weather was cool, my heart rate was low and my cadence was high. I got in the zone and clicked away. 
Photo: Witsup
It was wet. My "not amused" face. Photo: Witsup

I knew I needed to take at least 3.5 minutes per lap out of Michelle in order to have a chance, but I didn’t want to rush it. I also knew that Michelle was in excellent run form, having recently posted a personal best run in IM New Zealand (3:14). I knew that with the deficit I had, only a 3:00 marathon would have a chance. Michelle had truly smashed the course, and in the end, she finished 25 minutes faster than her winning time from 2015 (running 3:11!) . So, to say she made me work for it is an understatement. She truly is a fantastic Ironman athlete who should not be underestimated. Cheers also to Dimity Lee Duke who rounded out the podium in 3rd.  I love racing with Dimity- she races hard and fair and is an awesome competitor. 


Champagne shower with Bremer, Photo: Witsup


Gear note: Run
I debated in the days before the race to wear the new HOKA Clayton or stick with my HOKA Clifton 2s. I wore the Clayton in Putrajaya 70.3 and loved them, but chose to stick with Clifton 2 for the full Ironman. Some say that Cliftons have too much cushion to run "fast". I disagree. And how fast are we going in Ironman anyway? I personally think they saved my legs and allowed me not to fade in the last 10k of that run- I nearly negative split and finished with a 2:56:10 . I also ran with the Garmin 620 w/ HRM... interestingly enough, my avg HR on that run was 5 beats lower than my avg HR on the bike. 

Clifton 2s FTW!  Photo: Witsup
For me, I just had one of those days you dream about where going hard feels good. Not to be that annoying chick, but I really never had a low spot and my legs responded with ease (for once! I feel I am too-often on team “come on, legs!”). I ran by heart rate and was mostly trying to "keep it up" so I just kept pushing as I know what heart rate I can sustain for an IM marathon. All day long I kept thinking to myself, "DAMN, I nailed this taper!" I felt like Freddy McFresherson compared to my usual lagging self. 

In the end, after 9 hours and 10 minutes, I broke the tape. 


photo: Delly Carr
Photo: Witsup
 A huge thank you to my supporters, my sponsors, and of course, my #1 and #2 fans Luke & Wynne... Couldn't do it without you.

Best cheer squad
Of course, Wynne wanted nothing to do with me at the finish line.. it was a little overwhelming for her with so many people and so much noise.I also need to teach Dad how to dress her and do her hair to be "camera ready" for these finish line opps.. Geez! 


If you've been following along, I fished my wish! I was given the honor to give burn victim turned all-around badass, Turia Pitt, her medal in her first-ever Ironman just 5 years after being trapped in a bush fire during an ultramarathon in Western Australia. Seriously, people, ANYTHING is possible. Thanks to Turia for showing that to us all.




Thank you again to everyone for your support, most particularly, my amazing sponsors.



Friday, April 29, 2016

In this moment


(What is is about the day before Ironman which evokes all the deep thoughts? Anyway, here are a couple of mine and I promise to return to a round-the-world adventures recap soon after the race tomorrow) 



I look through my Instagram pictures and Facebook posts and I see a life I never imagined living. Elephants and monkeys, absurd amounts of tropical islands, cycling with Kangaroos, a chiseled-looking Australian man (seriously, how did I score him?) and a perfect little girl. Sure, it’s the “best foot forward” tiny little glimpse of my life that showcases the highs and minimizes the lows, but the truth is that those moments are still lived by me and my little family. Never did I imagine in a million years that at 36 years old I would be traveling the world as a professional athlete with my daughter and my Australian triathlete soon-to-be-husband. 
early days

Koala crossing in Queensland
Candy the elephant in Phuket, Thailand


Lava fields in the Oregon high desert
It's more fun in the Philippines
In some ways, I’m living out my wildest dreams, but to be completely honest, in some ways I’m scared s$%tless. I was brought up in a family where hard work, education, and helping others were the primary family values. My dad is a doctor, my sister is a nurse, my stepmom is a child psychologist, and my mom is a college professor. Until three years ago, I followed their footsteps and was happy and secure in the future I had created for myself. As a school psychologist, I loved my career, I loved my school community and the families I was able to connect with. I spent 8 years in college & graduate school school to obtain complicated-sounding degrees and solidify my career. I knew that my retirement fund would grow every year and I’d be ok when I was old and gray. And then, I quit. What started as a leave of absence turned into a resignation as it became clear that if I returned to my psychologist position, Wynne & I would stay home in California, she’d be in full-time day care, and Luke would travel around solo to bring home the bacon. 

getting engaged on the Great Barrier Reef


sunrise in Melbourne, Australia

Cycling the canyons in Utah

wins



exploring the woods in New Hampshire

posting in Paris
paddling with Dad

Instead, I chose to live a little traveling circus with my partner and our perfect little girl, pursuing my little slice of the triathlon dream and watching Luke live out his big slice first-hand instead of via Skype. Wynne has been to 5 continents & 14 countries (many with multiple visits) before her second birthday. 
where to?

ticket to ride

Life now is exhilarating and incredibly fun and adventurous, but even more so, it completely scares me to death. I cannot board a 12-hour plane flight, ride my bike through a monkey forest, or run through a remote village without wondering what life will be like in 10 years and “what the heck am I thinking?!?”. In my upbringing, you plan for your future. You make sacrifices today that will ensure payoff tomorrow and way down the line. Nowhere in the Gerdes family guidebook was it written that you choose a “career” that most certainly will end by your early 40s, or a partner who is along that same career path. 
bubbles at the Tour de France



on island time in the Bahamas



twinning in Hawaii
For me, living in the moment is harder than planning for the future. I wake up (wherever I am) every day completely amazed by the world around me (which in the past 18 months has included Australia, Chile, Panama, The Philippines, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Malaysia, Thailand, The Bahamas, Cape Cod, New Hampshire, Hawaii, California, Chicago and probably some spots I’m forgetting). But before I even pinch myself, I freak out that I should be at a desk somewhere writing a psychoanalytical report or back in the sleep-deprived state of train-work-train purely because I felt deep down I was the hardest working person out there and that gave me some sort of sense of accomplishment that I was doing the "right" thing. I constantly look at what I’m doing now and wonder if my parents are proud of me or if they just think I’m running around the world being silly. At the end of the day, though, even if I never win another Ironman or accomplish my biggest goals in sport, I know my parents are proud of me. They see me happy and in love with Luke, spending valuable time with Wynne, and doing my best to follow my dreams and work hard at "right now". I think they enjoy seeing me live my life in this moment and I hope that they’re confident that when this is over, I’ll find a way to be okay (we are saving, mom & dad, I promise!!!) . We may never be millionaires, but we certainly won’t live life with any regrets over paths not taken. 

Tomorrow, I’m racing Ironman Australia, my 7th Ironman start line since I had Wynne nearly 2 years ago. Tomorrow, I’ll try my guts out to go as fast as I can, but I’ll also be celebrating this opportunity, this dream, these people, and give thanks every mile that I get to live this life in this moment. 

Thank you to everyone who makes it possible to get to the start lines around the world including my friends, family, and 2016 sponsors. First Ironman of the year, here’s to making it count! 


added note: Since the Ironman welcome dinner last night and meeting Turia Pitt at the pro panel, I cannot stop thinking about one thing. And for this race, that's my "WHY". Why are you doing this? When the going gets tough tomorrow, Turia has given me my "why".... Because I want to be the one that gets to give Turia her finisher medal at that finish line... A job reserved for the race winners. That would mean the world to me. If you want to be inspired, read a bit about Turia's incredible journey here and tune into ironman.com tomorrow to support her!