Donny Robinson talks about drug testing
By Byron TGI Friday.
Some BMX riders are dreaming of becoming US Olympic team members and UCI world champions. Achieving these goals will require you to rise to the level of a world-class athlete, and also to take full responsibility for your athletic development program. It is mandatory that you understand the United States Anti-doping Agency (USADA) and World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) testing protocols.
We asked “Pedals 2 Medals” founder and BMX Olympian and UCI Elite BMX World Champion Donny Robinson if he would provide some insights on international drug testing and the high degree of responsibility required of a world-class athlete.
Can you give us a general overview of what an Elite athlete competing in the UCI BMX sanctioned events goes through with WADA and USADA?
All riders taking part in any UCI affiliated BMX race are subject to doping control at any event. Typically, the winner and at least two other random riders are chosen and tested on site, immediately following the races. That’s why you see riders get swiped up by people in vests with clipboards after crossing the finish line.
Most racers are actually required (through their national governing body) to adhere to strict “out of competition” rules, as well. Meaning, if you’re a high-level BMX Racer, you can get tested at any race, on any day at your house, and even when you’re at church!
For about six years (’06-’12) I was a part of USADA’s registered testing pool (the most extreme of them all), which meant I had to let the agency know where I was at all times. Yes, the doping control agents needed to be able to find me at any time, on any day, and if they showed up at a place where I said I was going to be and I wasn’t there, I would be subject to a missed test, which is ALMOST the same thing as a failed test.
The crazy thing about being in USADA’s registered testing pool is that you constantly have to be aware of your schedule and what you’re putting in your body. Because USADA can show up ANYWHERE you are, at ANY time, you have to make sure you not only update your whereabouts, but you need to know what foods/supplements you’re consuming. Talk about responsibility.
Did I mention that once USADA arrives (sometimes at 6am, sometimes at 9pm) you had better be ready to give a sample – yes, urinate (and sometimes blood), and it has to be done in front of your doping control officer. Want to hear some horror stories? Talk with any of the top riders and they’ll tell you of times where it’s taken HOURS to produce a sample because they had just went to the bathroom before USADA arrived.
What happens if you have things to do and can’t produce a sample? It’s OK, the doping control officer will hang out with you until it’s time. Have a date? No problem, they’ll come too. Family dinner? Better make room for them at the table.
Although there was often burden and inconvenience being amongst the group of BMX Racers who were constantly looked after by USADA, would it be right for it to have been any other way? If we want to be recognized at world-class athletes, then we must play the game the same as all other Olympic disciplines.
In life, we must be responsible for our actions and just because we, for a while, live mostly in the fantasy world that is “professional athletics,” doesn’t mean we’re exempt from the rules set forth by those in charge. BMX Racers must still choose to have things one of two ways – we can be the renegades who ride to the beat of their own drum, or we can rise to the level that we wished our sport would always aspire to.
We’ve seen many cases where BMX Racers have unknowingly ingested a banned substance (whether over-the-counter or not) and without fail, always notice people coming to their defense. Is it unfair that riders get suspended for taking something that was not intended to be performance-enhancing? Absolutely. But on the flip side, they knew the rules and what was required of them, as small as the offense might be.
Racers have always been in an interesting position when it comes to what we’re asked to sacrifice and what rewards we experience through our sport. For some, it may seen like too little for too much, but my advice is “chase after the dream, don’t chase after the money,” and sometimes “the dream” includes jumping through hoops.
Enjoy the ride, guys, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.