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What I learned from the doping control process

Regardless of the level you're competing at, know what you're taking and ensure it's an allowed substance

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My name is Madeleine Kelly, and I’m an 800m runner training in Toronto. Two weeks ago I competed at the Canadian Track and Field Championships and was an 800m finalist. 

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was addressed by a woman who said, “Madeleine Kelly? You’ve been selected for doping control.”

I’ve run at several championships, but had yet to be selected for doping control. I was initially pretty cavalier about the process, because I’m sure I have nothing to hide. But then I considered all of the times I’ve taken over-the-counter medication without consulting Global DRO, the official drug reference website. 

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The CCES (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport) officers were very thorough and patient as they explained the process to me. After filling out all of the paper work, my officer and I traveled around the meet together until I was ready to provide a sample. A sample is given by peeing in a cup under the supervision of an officer. I was still able to cool down and meet my family post-race, however I was supervised the entire time. 

The whole process took roughly three hours, but that was primarily due to my severe dehydration. I wasn’t shocked by any part of the process, since many of my teammates have been selected before, and told me what it’s like.

What I was surprised by was that I was chosen. I was not a national medalist, nor have I ever been. I’d always taken the mandatory doping control courses, half-listening, because I thought my chances of being selected were very low. 

There are many substances on the banned or conditional list that can fly under the radar. For example, Advil Cold and Sinus Nighttime is a banned substance in competition. The medical ingredient, pseudoephedrine, is prohibited when the urinary concentration exceeds 150 micrograms/mL. 

Thankfully I hadn’t consumed any of those substances, but mistakes can be made. I have taken multiple anti-doping courses, and am fully aware of my resources, yet I don’t always use them. This weekend was a reminder for myself and now for other runners, regardless of the level you’re competing at, to know what you’re taking and ensure it’s an allowed substance. Because sadly, unintentional cheating is still cheating. And a seemingly innocent mistake could cost you months (or more) sidelined from the sport you love.