This season started off as perfectly as I could have imagined: I won a race. The venue was Delray Beach, Florida for the USA Crits opener and for me, it was my first race of the year and questions like “do I suck?” were certainly running through the back of my mind. With no local racing to rest my confidence on, it was a joy and relief to knock off a major team and personal goal so quickly. The details of the race are unimportant, so I’d prefer to summarize: I got in a break of three, we lapped the field, and my team gave me a beautiful lead out. I crossed the line next to my final lead out man with our arms extended in triumph. It was perfect. But that victory allowed me to check off a true career goal of mine.
After crossing the line, a cool down lap ensued with celebrations spontaneously breaking out as my teammates saw each other and reveled in the payoff of our hard work. Stopping at the finish line, my favorite announcer gave a quick post-race interview where I was able to gush about the team’s performance. With that done, I rolled a few feet down the road to meet up with the boys and talk as the podium was set up; this is where I was introduced to my career goal.
“Hi, I’m Mr. Someone, I’m from USADA. I’ll be following you around till you pee in this cup.” The stark uniformity of his introduction caught me off guard in the midst of such jubilation. At first, I was taken aback, “You want me? Really?” quickly followed by an internal, “Awesome!” It was a strange mental process to go through as I prepared to smile pretty for the podium.
As the presentation wound down, I stepped off the podium and walked back to the chaperon, a few pleasantries followed and then he asked if I would need an escort. I’m sure there can be good reasons for needing one, but my only thought was, “I can hold it myself.” Being a grown man, I politely declined.
I was then handed off to a different chaperon and we walked away from the crowds toward our undisclosed location. The bliss of winning was quickly replaced with a more sobering businesslike manner. A few riders rolled by asking questions all in the vein of, “Is there a list? Am I being tested, too?” My chaperon eventually informed them that she was not part of USADA and we were merely two people headed away from the mayhem. This certainly caught me off guard and quickly made me question her true intent. Who was this freak pretending authority but seeking fetishism? After some reassurance that she was in fact a USADA employee and simply didn’t want to deal with the randoms, we continued.
As we approached the parking garage of fate, my Tucson roommate rolled by and yelled, “Yeah, you better test him!” which was fun for me but maybe a bit worrisome for my new friend with no idea of the relationship. We rounded a corner and I was presented with a bunch of suits meandering around a case of water and what must have been the entirety of one team that was “randomly” selected to be drug tested. I was told to grab a seat and some water and inform them when I was ready.
I began the process of topping my tanks and quickly realized I was in the midst of a rather frenzied situation. There was a conflict between a number of the other riders and testers all revolving around the topic of drug testing. One didn’t want his photo taken and had no ID to present. One wanted their coach present. One didn’t have to pee and apparently wasn’t going to have the urge anytime that day, by his calculation. I was promptly left unnoticed leaning against a car gently downing bottle after bottle of water.
Girlfriends rolled in and joined the discussion, agreeing wholeheartedly about the wrongful persecution of their trapped partners. Eventually, the man I assume was their team coach appeared and acted as the liaison between both parties. Most of the conversation was in Spanish, which I have no grasp of, but from what I could tell things weren’t going well. At one point they all turned and pointed to me, which was a little worrisome, but I am confident they meant no harm. I’m assuming they said something about testing more people like me—people on the podium that is. I can’t disagree; the so-called random selections did not appear to be very random, but who am I to judge? Justifiably or not, some teams and riders have an air of mistrust following them around, and it appears they are “randomly” chosen more often. Doesn’t quite add up, but that’s how it is. Racism, anonymous tip or whatever the reason, this ethnically alike group was chosen from the field and they were unhappy.
I too was entering a perilous situation. Being worried about dehydration and the inability to perform my task of peeing in a cup, I drank copious amounts of water. This quickly turned into a stomach ache as my starving body ballooned. Eventually that passed and was replaced with the much more unpleasant feeling of an overwhelming urge to relieve myself.
I poked, prodded and begged my way around the testers waiting for someone to pay attention to me. Preoccupied with their problems, they put out the figurative fire in front of them and slowly carted the more willing coals back and forth to the bathroom.
Finally someone saw me and gave the go ahead. It was my turn! This was far less exciting than I hoped for. We walked into a handicap stall and I ripped the cup out of its container as fast as possible while simultaneously avoiding urinating all over myself. Once the cup was adequately full, I continued to empty myself while holding a mildly pleasant conversation with the man calmly staring at me.
Coming back to the fire pit, I proudly held my trophy aloft and was passed on to a woman who would help me with the paper work. She was a wily veteran of the process and took us aside and into a car. I opened containers, verified numbers and agreed to whatever questions were asked of me. I also managed to spill a bit on her and the car, which she seemed a little laissez-faire about if you ask me.
Overall it was a pleasant experience and she was very helpful, going to the extent of informing me that was I was fairly hydrated after looking at my urine through a kaleidoscope or something similar. When she said we were done, I thanked her and readied myself to leave. She gave me an odd smirk, telling me she doesn’t hear that too often. Maybe it was virgin inquisitiveness. Maybe some people just don’t like to be tested. Either way, I was happy to become part of the tested few, and wanted to thank her. Then, paperwork in hand, I smiled to myself and went to join my teammates for cheesesteaks.
*Chemstrip image courtesy of J3D3, Wikimedia Commons.
**Photo “Jerome Relocation Center, Denson, Arkansas. In the laboratory at the center hospital, Iiuao Oyama” courtesy of Tom Parker, National Archives and Records Administration.