COLORADO SPRINGS – As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics get closer, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency conference is happening right now in Colorado Springs.
It’s a major step in bringing anti-doping officials together to not just recognize those folks who work to test athletes around the clock, but also discuss better strategies to make the testing process easier.
Before athletes make to the to the Olympics, they have to meet a special group of people: doping control officers.
They make sure they’re clean so no one gets an unfair advantage.
“It’s a selfless sacrifice and they do it for the athletes, they do it for fair play, they do it so that you know, our athletes can have an equal opportunity to win,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, or USADA.
These folks, many of whom have other full-time jobs are gathered in Colorado Springs, in part to be recognized for what they do, day in and day out.
Since they test athletes without notice, they’re sometimes left scrambling.
“They work tirelessly, they spend hours in the car, staring at google maps to try to figure out where we live as athletes,” said Noah Hoffman, an Olympic athlete who is also a speaker at the conference.
“Not there. then you’ve gotta try to figure out, ok i gotta go – i gotta go across town in traffic, what do you do? you make it happen,” said Phyllis Starks, a Doping Control Officer, or DCO.
Another important purpose: share new technologies, such as a dried blood spot test that makes drawing blood samples absolutely painless.
“The easier we can make the entire anti-doping process, the better it is for all the athletes everywhere,” Hoffman added.
Hoffman is a two-time Olympian.
He was personally affected by doping when a cross-skier he was competing with in the 2013-14 world cup tested positive for a performance enhancing drug.
“I felt sad for the sport,” he said.
Some DCO’s don’t even have a medical background before joining. They just feel passionately about keeping the playing field even.
“It’s easy for that person over here, didn’t work as hard, but takes a substance, to be bigger badder and better. that’s not fair,” Starks remarked.
And what they learn here, will prove essential when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics come around.
“Clean sport is going to happen at the games because of what happens between now and the games,” said Tygart.
The anti-doping agencies from China and next Olympic host country, Japan, were also present at the conference.
The goal is to connect the different international agencies and streamline the way athletes are tested so the process remains consistent.