Wednesday, March 27, 2013

USADA and 6 a.m. wake-up calls

It's again that time when I start getting almost daily reminders from USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) that my quarterly "whereabouts" filing is nearly due. Most people will tell you that there is no drug testing in ultra-running, and while for the most part this is true, there are certain high profile races (Comrades and UTMB to name a couple) that do in-competition testing. UTMB tests pre-competition, and Comrades tests top finishers. There is also a way to get yourself landed in the USADA registered drug testing pool, which is to finish in the top 3 at one if the IAAF-recognized IAU world championship events.

So, I'd been told that winning the World 100K would likely land me on the drug testing list, but I thought I'd managed to escape notice, which I figured was because of other race results, and the fact that the Worlds win was a freak incident.  Sadly, this didn't turn out to be true and I got an email in early February (almost 10 months after Worlds) with the subject line "Welcome to the USADA RTP!" and an email that started with, "Congratulations!  You have met your National Governing Body’s criteria to be included in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s Registered Testing Pool (“RTP”)." I found the congratulatory note interesting/odd, being that selection into the RTP is a complete pain in the ass. The letter then went on to explain that I had been selected for the International Testing Pool (the other option is the National Testing Pool which is slightly less of a pain in the ass), and that I would need to file quarterly "whereabouts" that detail out my daily schedule from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., including a 60 minute window, providing a time and location where I can be found seven days a week. There's no guarantee that I, if tested, will be tested within my chosen window, as I can be tested at any time between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., but should I not be located within that window I'll get a missed test violation, and three missed tests equals an anti-doping violation. The "whereabouts" schedule I submit quarterly, and whenever I vary from it, I'm supposed to text updates to USADA with the schedule change.  

So, before March 31 I need to let USADA know where I plan to spend every hour from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. from April 1 - June 30. Obviously it's pretty hard today to predict where I'll be on June 22nd at 10 p.m., but that's what I need to do, and submit it to USADA by March 31 (or I'll be subject to a violation).  And this gets repeated quarterly.  Until I get taken off the list. The only way to get taken off the list voluntarily is to "retire."

Because I often train in the morning, and my post-work schedule varies day to day, I opted for my 60 minute window to be mid-morning during the work week, and 6-7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  If USADA shows up to test me during my window, and I'm not there, they will not call me, but will wait an hour, and then call me to let me know I've missed a test.  That's where the difference between the International and National testing pools seems to lie--there is no window in the national testing pool, but USADA will call you once they show up to wherever you've indicated you'll be, and you have an hour to report.  In the case of the international testing pool, you don't get a call; they wait for you to show up, and if you don't, they call to let you know you were missed. I have not yet figured out whether there's a difference between missing a test inside your window, or outside of your window. 

When I first heard about this, I freaked out a bit.  Talk about a major invasion of privacy, although anyone that is friends with me on FB knows that I'm not an overly private person. To be honest, I don't care about the invasion of privacy, as much as the pain-in-the-ass part about keeping USADA updated as to my hourly moves. I'd rather they just stick a chip in me and track me if they really want to know where I am.  I mean seriously, do they want to know that I'm going to the grocery store or heading to yoga class? Do they want me to text them if I head out for the evening or the address of where I'm sleeping tonight if it's not at home?  I asked those questions of USADA, and the answer to the first questions is "probably not" assuming I'm not going to be gone more than an hour, but the answer to the other questions is "yes."  I jokingly posted on FB that anyone wanting to sleep with me in the next quarter should let me know so that I could schedule accordingly.  For those that didn't respond--don't worry, I can just text in an update, so not all is lost, and there's still time to get on next quarter's schedule.  

My official start day in the RTP was Feb 20 and I've already been tested once. From talking with others that have been on the list (but from different countries), I assumed I might be tested once or twice in a year.  Hopefully that'll be the case, but after being tested just 10 days after getting on the list, it's hard to say. It was nice that the testers came within my scheduled "window" and opted for the 6 a.m. Sunday morning slot.  I did ask them whether that was routine (to test within the window) to which they said, "not necessarily."  It also helped me to realize that we have a doorbell that doesn't work, and that my kittens are truly dog-like in that they jumped out of bed to go investigate who was at the door.  I never would have opened the door, assuming that whoever was knocking was a thief trying to determine if we were home before they broke in, but luckily I have a roommate who is not a complete pansy.  

In terms of the actual test (urine sample), the experience was much easier than my experience being tested in competition. After Worlds, during which I peed while running for much of the race (lesson learned, if you're having a good day, save some), it took me a good 7 liters of water and Coke and more than 2 hours to produce a sample (after which I could have produced hundreds of samples). For the recent test, I hadn't gotten up in a few hours, so the friendly USADA ladies were on their way by 6:30, and I had time to snuggle back into bed  for another 30 minutes of sleep before getting up to meet friends to run.  The testing agents were two women, and once they make contact with you, you can't leave their sight.  I had to retrieve my license from my room to prove my identity, and one of them followed me in there and into the kitchen to get water. The same is true for the sample--they watch your every move (and yes, they watch you pee in the cup--luckily I don't have performance anxiety). Weird. Especially for a podunk ultrarunner.  Kind of makes you feel important in an odd way. Like, am I really being drug tested in my own home at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and why?

Alas, I've gotten lax, and have not even remembered that I'm on the testing pool since that first test, under the assumption that I won't be tested again soon. I went to Bend last weekend without remembering to let them know I was leaving town.  I should probably pay a bit more attention and remember to text in updates, but was operating in the post-test glow of perceived freedom. In the meantime, I've got the next three months of my life to plan out before Sunday.  Let me know if you want on the schedule!