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In at the deep end

By Brentwood Gazette  |  Posted: June 14, 2012

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Last week I was called upon for an out-of-competition drugs test and was required to submit a sample of urine.

This involves a stringent process in which the doping control officer must accompany you into the toilet in order to verify that the sample is in fact your own – I was once warned to 'leave your dignity outside' when it comes to a drugs test!

As it turned out I ended up having to produce three samples because the first two were deemed too dilute to be tested (the downside of drinking five litres of water a day).

Repeat samples are necessary so as to prevent an athlete from deliberately over hydrating in an attempt to mask illegal substances.

While I was waiting the half an hour required between samples, I thought more about the reasons why, as elite sports people, we are happy to abide by these protocols.

Along with the rest of Team GB, and the majority of those competing in London this summer, I am likely to be tested three more times before the Games even commence.

The aim is to try and convince those watching that everyone competing is doing so legitimately:

Free from any banned substances. Free from any unnatural gains in performance.

Hence, I am more than willing to provide as many samples as necessary.

The sporting world has undergone a huge change in the frequency and effectiveness of drug testing in recent years, but what difference does it make to athletes?

Since the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999, there has been a sharp increase in testing both in and out of competition, in order to ensure a cleaner and fairer sporting environment.

Theoretically, the more tests carried out the less likely athletes are to take performance enhancing drugs since they fear they will be caught.

For example at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, 4,500 samples were taken and only six proved positive (just 0.13 per cent). For some this was taken as a sign that the policy was working and that there were fewer cheats. For others, though, it merely marked the introduction of new, more sophisticated drugs, developed to hide the presence of other, illegal substances in the body.

I am reassured that whilst I am being tested so rigorously my competitors will be also. When I step onto the blocks at the London Aquatic Centre on July 28 and 30 I will be racing against swimmers who will have earned their place at the pinnacle of world sport on merit alone.

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