Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The joys of USADA and drug tests....

July was a frustrating month on the drug-testing front. First, they keep coming back. What I thought would be a yearly or at-most quarterly check has been monthly. I failed to update my schedule last week, and got my first missed test violation when they showed up at 6 a.m. Sunday morning at my Portland house (I was in DC). The missed test was completely my fault--I meant to go online last week and check my submitted schedule, but I figured since they had tested me at work a few days before I left for DC there was no chance they'd come back the following week and didn't bother checking whether I'd included my DC trip and lodging information/testing windows while in DC. While the tests are ordered by 2 different agencies (USADA or IAAF), they've still been spaced fairly evenly, or at least not more frequently than monthly. Wrong. This time would have been 10 days between tests. I mean seriously, me, doping? Although that brings me around to the next drug-testing drama.

A couple of days after returning from Western States I got a very official and legal sounding letter from USADA letting me know that I was being investigated for a potential anti-doping rules violation. Huh? To back-pedal a bit, whenever they come to test, I have to declare what I've taken in terms of vitamins/medications in the 72 hours prior. That usually equates to me declaring my daily Vit D supplement. When I was drug tested in April or May I had indicated that I'd had a Venofer infusion via a 200 mL drip. Venofer is an iron sucrose solution used to treat anemia. It's administered via an IV drip, wherein lies the problem. While iron is not a banned substance, getting an IV infusion of more than 50 mL that's not administered in a hospital setting is not allowed without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). However, in my case, I didn't need a TUE because it was administered in an out-patient clinic at OHSU which qualifies as a hospital setting. I know this because I checked into all of this BEFORE I got the infusions. That's part of the reason I found the notification so annoying--I went through the proper steps, contacted USADA, asked for clarification prior to treatment, and went ahead, and then got a letter saying that I'd done something wrong. Screw you. I freaked out more than a little when I got the letter even though I knew I'd done nothing wrong. And I wasn't sure how to respond. It was all very official sounding. Did I need a lawyer? Luckily, my primary care physician is great, and works with athletes, and I sent him off the letter from USADA, which he wrote a response to immediately, such that I responded to USADA the same day they sent me the notification. I was cleared of the violation within a week or two, but the whole thing caused me angst and a few tears.

To me it's just ridiculous to think that I'm probably the only ultra runner in the US currently being tested on an out-of-competition basis. Sabrina and Jon will most likely get put into the pool, but maybe not until next year (I won worlds in April 2012, and wasn't in the pool until February 2013). No one else in the sport needs to worry about getting a violation for using cold medication or an epi-pen should I have an allergic reaction to a bee sting (you can get a post-usage emergency TUE for this, but again, it's the process that's a pain).  It's one thing when you're a professional athlete and have nothing to do but lounge around between workouts and wait for USADA folks to show up and worry about applying for TUEs. Running is not my job. I have a regular job and it's already hard to squeeze it all in without worrying about whether going for a run is going to make me miss my testing window. I can also be an irresponsible flake, and simply forget to do things, like pay bills on time or update my whereabouts filing. It would really suck to get 3 missed tests and get a suspension because I'm a flake.

And then there's the awkwardness around getting tested at work. I'm required to declare a 60-minute window every day of the week. Logistically, it would be difficult to declare my 60 minute window before work (I'm out running many days and the window can't start until 6 a.m. which would mean I couldn't run in the mornings), and after work would mean that I'd have to go home and wait for them every night (I'm often out running, or at the gym or doing something).  On the weekends my window is 6-7 a.m. at home, but more often than not, they've come at work during the week ( although they've now come twice on weekend mornings at 6 a.m.). So, work seemed the best option during the week, being that I assumed it would be a once-every-6-months kind of thing, and not something that could actually disrupt my work day.

The "awkwardness around getting tested at work" comes in few ways. This last test I had just used the bathroom before she arrived, so couldn't produce a sample right away. I tried, and then had to carry my partial sample around with me, and back up to my desk, while I continued to work with my USADA friend in my cube with me until I could finish (I can't leave her sight once she's contacted me). Then there's the "watching you pee" aspect to the test, which at home is no biggie, but when you're in a work bathroom with multiple stalls, and the two of you enter the stall together with others in the bathroom, and are then pouring urine samples into fancy little bottles on the counter...it's got to look a bit strange.

In the meantime, I'm expecting them today or tomorrow to make up the test I missed Sunday, but maybe it doesn't work that way. Regardless, I now need to be a lot more anal about letting them know my every move because I don't want a second missed test. Three strikes (within 18 months) and you're out. Although in the low-key trail ultra racing world, what does that even mean? Is a non-USATF trail 50 miler going to tell me I can't race?