Training Camp in Santa Barbara, Week 5

Monday: Recovery
Tuesday: Recovery
Wednesday: 4 hours, v-intensity
Thursday: 5 hours, v-endurance, 4×15 tempo intervals in 3rd hour
Friday: 5 hours, v-endurance
Saturday: 5 hours, v-intensity
Sunday: 3.5 hours, v-intensity (Group Ride)

It’s been an auspicious week, to say the least. The city of Santa Barbara “narrowly” missed being inundated by a tsunami*, I was t-boned by a UCSB student who was riding home from class in Isla Vista, and I was subjected to my first out-of-competition doping control test!

Because our team was selected to compete in the 2011 Tour of California, every rider who may be selected to compete for the team had to file with US Anti-Doping Authority’s (USADA) “Registered Testing Pool.” This pool is generally reserved for athletes competing for the United States in international competitions, but it also includes elite and professional athletes who compete on the international level. Technically, you don’t need to be in the pool for them to come to your house and test you (it happened to two of my teammates last year), but it’s much more likely once you’ve joined the pool. I am in the pool from now until the end of the Tour of California.

Amgen Inc., the company that runs the race, asked USADA to do this in an attempt to ensure they have a clean race, unmarred by the scourge of doping. Registering in the pool included the requirement that I fill out a “Whereabouts Statement,” which is a detailed calendar stating where I will be every hour of each day between now and the Tour of California. Let’s say I’m going out to train. I have to include the window of time in which I will be on the road. If I go to Yoga at 8:30AM on Mondays, that has to go in there along with the address of the studio. If I go to a gym or any other type of training facility, that has to be in there. If I go on vacation, I have to include the address of the resort and length of stay. If I go to a race, I need to include the address of the hotel and my schedule of competition.

When the Doping Control Officer (DCO) came to my door at 6:00AM on Thursday morning, he said that technically they can come whenever they feel like it. If you’re not there, they file a “missed test” report, which you then have to contest. If you don’t contest it, then three missed tests will result in a suspension. To make things even more stressful, there are multiple, “Doping Control Officers” operating in the same region, and they don’t coordinate with one another. For all I know, I could be tested tomorrow by another DCO on a completely unrelated schedule.

Now, to the test itself, the “voiding of the sample” as it is euphemistically referred to, is all highly regulated. As soon as you answer the door, the DCO has to follow you wherever you go. If I want to wash my face, he follows me to the sink. Theoretically, if I had to take my child to school, or run and pick up some groceries, they would hop in the car and go with me. Once they initiate the process, there are a series of forms to read carefully and sign. They ask you if you’ve had any blood transfusions in the last six months (no). They ask you if you’ve taken ANY medication in the last 3 days, including vitamins and other supplements (no). They then have you select from a number of different collection kits (I don’t think I need to explain what these are for). Once you’ve made your selection and inspected it to make sure the bag is sealed and there are no contaminants, you and the DCO proceed to the bathroom. There, the DCO explains just how much fluid you need to “void” into the receptacle and asks you to pull down your pants (to your knees!). He then watches as the fluid leaves your body and enters the cup. You then seal the cup and return to select your analysis kits. After you’ve poured your sample into little glass jars and sealed them with a cap that cannot be removed without breaking the container itself, the DCO takes out a “mass spectrometer,” which looks like a fancy kaleidoscope. He puts a drop of your “fluid” onto the end. He then peers through the opposite end to ensure that your urine is sufficiently dense. If you were too hydrated, then you would have to offer another sample, and another, and another until they got a satisfactory result. Then the sample goes off to the lab for analysis. They will mail me my results in a few weeks.

There must be a religion whose tenets that process violated. If I had a shred of self-consciousness or inhibition about my body, I would have felt seriously violated. Luckily for me and my professional cycling career, I have very few such preoccupations.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading. I leave Santa Barbara on Wednesday for a week visiting relatives in Huntington Beach, and then I am off to San Dimas for my first important test of the season. Wish me luck. I look forward to seeing you all again soon!

*Despite my lighthearted words regarding the tsunami warning that went into effect on Friday morning for the west coast of the continental United States, I just wanted to mention that the news out of Japan has been truly sobering. I hope everyone will keep the people affected by this disaster in their thoughts and prayers in the weeks and months ahead.




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