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!