Monthly Archives: July 2008

Tara Hopes Jessica Innocent of Doping

In Tara Kirk’s latest blog entry, the Bremerton native talks about how she is hesitant to force her way on the team.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I know that there is the option of arbitration before me. But I am hesitant to be the swimmer who forces her way onto the team. And there is still the issue of Jessica’s hearing. Honestly, I hope that she is found innocent of doing anything wrong. If she didn’t cheat then she should have the spot that she has been preparing for.”

She also talks about the fact that swimming isn’t judgemental, not with a clock ticking away nano-seconds, but is now finding out that a person can decide her fate.

Here’s more of what she wrote:

“The judgment of the clock is something that I accept. And no matter how I rail against the vagrancy of fate in the separation of 100th of a second, I understand that the clock holds the final sway. But now I suspect that I am not on the Olympic team because of a human decision. And that does not sit well.

The excuse that the deadline for nominations to the U.S. Olympic Team has passed is an empty explanation for my exclusion from the team. I have been told by people within the USOC and USA swimming that USA swimming knew about the positive drug test before the entry deadline.

I’m not sure what to think about this as I have talked with many different people who have been telling me different stories. I have asked others to investigate what happened and my future options. I want to believe that there are people at USA Swimming and the USOC doing the right thing. I hope that they are.”

You can read more of Tara’s blog entry here.

Hardy Lawyer Says Tests Were ‘Low-Positive’

In a story by Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times, Jessica Hardy’s lawyer, Howard Jacobs, said his client’s positive test was a ‘low-positive.’

Here’s an excerpt:

“Laboratory documents revealed that swimmer Jessica Hardy’s level of the banned substance clenbuterol was, in fact, a “low positive,” her lawyer said Thursday.

Howard Jacobs, in a telephone interview with The Times, said he received the documentation Wednesday but declined to provide test specifics beyond the low positive and how it might have resulted for the 21-year-old Long Beach swimmer, who qualified for the Olympics in multiple events.”

After the A and B samples — taken at the U.S. Olympic swim trials in Omaha this month — came back positive, Hardy left the team’s training camp at Stanford University and could face a ban of two years. Instead of departing with the rest of the Olympians for Singapore today, she is at home with her family, continuing to train and preparing for an arbitration hearing, which could take place within days, Jacobs said.

Jacobs is considered one of the premier defenders of athletes charged with doping offenses, having handled high-profile cases involving Marion Jones and Floyd Landis.

He reiterated what her agent had said earlier, that Hardy’s positive test, coming on July 4 after the 100-meter freestyle, was between two negative tests, on July 1 and July 6, and “struck” him as unusual.

“I can’t think of any cases where there have been three tests that close together [of differing results],” Jacobs said. “I can think of at least one athlete where there was a negative followed shortly by a positive.”

You can read more of the story here

 

 

 

OC Register Story on Supplement Company

Here’s a story on the supplement company AdvoCare, that Jessica Hardy endorses — along with five other U.S. Olympic swimmers who endorse the products they sell — that was written by the Orange County Register in Southern California.

The drug that turned up positive in Hardy’s drug test from the swim trials, clenbuterol, is used mainly for asthma (prescription only) in other countries as well as weight loss, mainly for bodybuilders. Clenbuteral is also given legally to race horses, but is not FDA-approved for human use. You can read more about the drug here.

Considering all the non-pharmaceutical drugs out there, it can be pretty tricky to figure out what health supplements athletes can use and which ones could potentially give them a positive or even a false-positive drug test and put their reputations on the line. I personally use organic vitamin supplements and trust the company they come from, as I’m sure many athletes do with the supplements they use. Unless you have a masters degree in chemistry or biology, you have to believe the company.

According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Web site, “The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 specifically exempted vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs and botanicals, and their extracts and concentrates from evaluation for safety and efficacy by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

I’m sure there will be much more to this story in the coming days.

Hardy Speaks: “I’m Innocent”

Jessica Hardy has responded to the news this week of her positive drug tests.

Associated Press writer Paul Newberry wrote the following story.

In the final days of training camp with her U.S. Olympic teammates, Jessica Hardy was trying to nap between practices when she got the most dreaded of phone calls for any athlete:

She had tested positive for an illicit drug.

“My main emotion at that point was confusion,” Hardy said Friday. “I had never even heard of this drug.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hardy professed her innocence and said she has no idea how she tested positive for Clenbuterol during the U.S. Olympic trials. She also talked hopefully about getting the ruling overturned in time to compete at the Beijing Olympics.

“I’m innocent,” said Hardy, who spoke by telephone from California accompanied by her attorney, Howard Jacobs. “That’s all I can say to everybody. Whether or not people chose to believe me, I’m innocent.”

Hardy was tested three times during the trials in Omaha, Neb., Jacobs said. The results were negative for the samples taken on July 1, after she won the 100-meter breaststroke, and on July 6, shortly after she claimed another individual race at the Olympics by finishing second to Dara Torres in the 50 freestyle.

But Hardy’s “A” and backup “B” samples both came back positive — for what her attorney said was low amounts of the drug — from a test on July 4, when she finished fourth in the 100 freestyle.

Clenbuterol is usually prescribed to those with breathing disorders, such as asthma, and also is well-known in horse racing circles as a treatment for respiratory ailments. More recently, it’s been touted as a weight-loss drug.

But it’s also a stimulant that increases aerobic capacity and the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream, which is why it landed on the list of banned substances for athletes.

Hardy said she can’t figure out how Clenbuterol wound up in her system — if, in fact, the test was accurate.

“It’s pretty much the hardest thing in my life that I’ve ever had to go through,” she said. “I’ve cried every single day since I found out. I even vomited from anxiety. This is absolutely the worst time of my life.”

Unless the positive test is overturned through an expedited arbitration process, Hardy will miss what was supposed to be her first Olympics and face a mandatory two-year doping ban.

The positive test between two negative tests certainly will be a major point in Hardy’s appeal.

“I would definitely say it’s unusual,” Jacobs said. “As far as how it will play into the arbitration case, I don’t know. But it’s out of the norm.”

The 21-year-old Hardy set a world record in the 100 breaststroke as a high school senior and was a four-time NCAA champion at the University of California before turning pro last year. After her performance at the Olympic trials, she was expected to be a key member of the U.S. women’s team in Beijing with her two individual events, plus likely spots on the 400 free relay and the 400 medley relay.

Now, her whole life is on hold, though Hardy continues to train on her own in southern California in hopes that her doping case will be overturned. The rest of the U.S. team left Friday for Singapore, where they will hold their final workouts before heading to Beijing.

“My training and my practices are really the only thing I have control over right now,” she said, shortly after a morning workout. “Honestly, I’m working as hard as possible. That’s really the only thing I can do for myself.”

Although swimming has largely avoided major drug scandals, which have plagued sports such as cycling and track and field, Hardy knows her name likely will be tarnished forever — no matter how her case turns out.

She’s now known as a doper.

“That’s one of my worries, but it’s not my main concern. First, I have to be able to compete,” she said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time, one hour at a time. I have the same goals, the same dreams I’ve had my whole career. Those dreams are definitely still there. But I’m just living moment to moment.”

Jacobs conceded it will be difficult to get the ruling overturned with the opening ceremonies just two weeks away. He first will take the case to the American Arbitration Association, which has yet to set a hearing date. And he’ll ask for an expedited ruling, so he would have time to take the case to a final authority — the Court of Arbitration for Sport — if necessary.

CAS will set up a temporary court in Beijing to handle last-minute cases.

The preliminaries of the 100 breast — Hardy’s best event — are scheduled for the evening of Aug. 10. The opening round of the 50 free is Aug. 15.

“If you’re asking me would I like more time, obviously the answer would be ‘yes,”’ Jacobs said. “Most of these cases are done over a period of months, not days. But with the Games upcoming, that, of course, is not an option.”

Hardy is relying on her family for support, and she’s also gotten hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and test messages urging her to remain hopeful.

“I’ve been reading them all, and I really appreciate them,” she said.

Hardy has heard from some of her U.S. teammates, but she’s tried to stay at a distance because she doesn’t want to be a distraction.

“It’s horribly difficult,” Hardy said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s heartbreaking.”

Although she knows there will be plenty of skeptics, those who say we’ve heard it all before from drug cheats ranging from Marion Jones to Floyd Landis, Hardy said her focus is on getting the ruling overturned.

Getting back her reputation is another matter.

“I just want to say that I’m innocent. I’ve been innocent my entire career,” she said. “I’ve never wanted to do anything remotely close to doping. It’s never, ever crossed my mind. I’ve never been approached about doing it. It’s never been an issue my entire career.

“It’s the last thing I would ever do.”

Tara’s Not Going to Sit Back and Take It

After reading Tara Kirk’s latest entry on her blog, it seems the Bremerton native isn’t just going to sit back and do nothing.

And you know what? Good for Tara!

Why should she? Why does someone who trained so hard, is clean, and desires more than anything to swim for her country in Beijing, be expected to just be quiet and accept whatever decisions about her career are made for her by someone else.

If you haven’t read her blog entry, here it is in its entirety:

A note to everyone who’s wondering what’s going on.

Greg told me Thursday morning that he had read in the Mercury News online that Jessica Hardy, one of the girls who finished ahead of me at Trials, had tested positive for a banned substance. The media was also reporting that the roster for the Olympic Team had already been finalized and that I could not be added to the team.

I had and still have many questions pertaining to the timeline of events and the results of these tests. I feel certain that someone along the way failed me and Lara, who would have been named to the team in the 50 free. The results of the drug test should have come back earlier, at least in time to name alternates to the team. It has, after all, been three weeks since the tests were taken. Did they come back earlier? If so, why am I just hearing about it by reading the newspaper and why am I not on the team? If not, why did they take so long?

I emailed USA swimming but did not get a response over the day.

In the evening I called Lea, my coach, who was trying to figure out exactly what had happened. It seemed that people were simply saying the deadline had passed and that we had to move on. That answer was not good enough for either of us. It is not acceptable to us that the dreams and work of four hard years be shrugged off on a technicality.

I called the head of USA swimming and left a message. He called me back and said that they were following entry procedures and that it was too late to add me to the team and that Jessica would be going through appeals for her drug test. I asked him to make an appeal to change the final roster and, after a long and emotional plea, he agreed.

That is where I am at right now. Before today I had thought that responsibility for me not making the team rested on my shoulders. If I had just swum to my abilities I would have made the team. It was a difficult situation but one in which I could only look within for answers. Today the situation seems much more gray. The fault now lies on many shoulders and I fear that incompetence, laziness and deceit may have played a role. That is much harder to take. Regardless of intent, mistakes were made and I am paying for them.

People I trusted to do their jobs and to ensure the working order of the system we put in place for our sport failed me. I hope that I am not being unreasonable in my analysis of the situation. But I just cannot stand the thought of these organizations, which are supposed to protect me, sitting on their hands while my dreams are being ripped away. I cannot go quietly away in this; I’ve worked too hard. I hope that you support me.

 

Here are some comments left for her on her entry. She has already received 14 comments, all of which are supportive of Tara and positive.

lewisc Says: You have EVERY right to be livid over this. I don’t think the culprit here is JH necessarily, its not like her times were super improved at trials and its even more mind-boggling that the positive test came after her best event. However, all organizations (USA Swimming, Advocare, etc) have dropped the ball royally and for that that you should not have to pay. You finished ahead of JH at worlds last year in the 100, and countless times you have come through for the US. Many people I have talked to have said their hearts go out to you and Lara, and honestly, a whole lot of people might be looking at some hefty lawsuits very soon. Good luck.

orangesandbrown Says: Obviously for many reasons this is a travesty. Concerning you Tara, our hearts are with you and Lara.Should a petition be started? I’m sure many in the online community (and others) would support you absolutely.
The powers that be need to know that everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions and that MANY do not approve of how decisions/events were handled after the positive result(s) in JH’s tests were brought to light.
I read that Jessica was informed on Jul 21st, the same day as the deadline for adding new athletes? Don’t know if that is accurate but if so…

Anyway, Tara, we feel for you in the whole rollercoaster of emotions that you must be going through since trials, the ride which doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. Hang in there. We’re behind you.

WAswimmer Says: Tara, I agree 100% and you are not being unreasonable. I and many others in the community support you in this and hope it works out in your favor.

Feel free to comment on this post as well. We’d love to hear from her hometown fans and what they think of everything that’s going on.

Some More News and Notes

I’m going to steal some links that appeared on Bob Silver’s blog, and let you know of some related links on Emily Silver that you might want to read.

Here’s one from Elliott Almond’s Olympics blog from the San Jose Mercury News; NBC’s bio on Emily can be found here, as well as Nathan Adrian’s bio here

Another link from Bob’s blog also shows a video of Dara Torres being interviewed at the swim trials. But Emily is also being interviewed in the background. And Bob is right, you can definitely see her elation and joy at being going to the Olympics. It’s pretty neat to watch and you can’t help but smile when you watch her talk.

And one more, the Cal Bears have an Olympics page on its Web site, which you can read here.

I lied. One more.

King-TV went down to Palo Alto for media day a week or so ago, and did a video report on Northwest Olympic swimmers including Nathan Adrian and Emily Silver.

 

No New Info on Hardy Yet

I haven’t found any new information on Jessica Hardy as of today, but I’m sure to learn more in the coming days and will keep you posted. 

I did find a couple of stories from Nikki Dryden of SwimNews.com as well as Craig Lord, also of SwimNews.com.

Dryden’s story talks about who leaked the story of Hardy’s positive drug tests. And, as Dryden pointed out in her story, we can’t rush to judgement on Hardy. It could be she just took some over-the-counter medicine like Nyquil or something before the race and that’s what has turned up in the sample.

Lord’s story talks about Hardy’s agent, Evan Morganstein’s support of his client.

Tara Accused Four Years Ago

After a little digging, I came across this story by Shelly Martin of the Stanford (University) News Service, and the panel discussion “Doping in Sports: The State of Play” in which Tara Kirk was a member.

Four years ago, Tara was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“Meanwhile, Kirk, who won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic Games, described what it feels like when you’re the one under investigation. Kirk was accused of doping four years ago, but her name was eventually cleared. On Thursday, she held up a booklet containing the results that showed she tested negative for performance-enhancing drugs.

“It’s easy to accuse someone,” Kirk said, adding that once an athlete’s name is smeared, “no one reads the retraction.”

Here’s the story that the Sun ran concerning the patches Tara and her sister Dana wore during the swim trials in 2004.

Kirks’ Patches Making Waves

Staff photo by Carolyn J. Yaschur 

Dana Kirk wore the patches on her shoulders at the U.S. Olympic swim trials earlier this month.

Six female Stanford swimmers, including Bremerton sisters Tara and Dana Kirk, affixed small patches to their shoulders at the Olympic trials earlier this month, stirring so much suspicion that USA Swimming officials sent samples to the United States Anti-doping Agency, or USADA, for testing.

David Schmidt, president of the company that makes the LifeWave Energy Enhancer, said one coach “apparently accused us of putting testosterone in the patch.” Schmidt called the charge “ridiculous” and insisted the patch contains only amino acids and water-based solutions.

No test results were immediately available, but the incident reflects the heightened attention to doping issues on the brink of next month’s Olympic Games in Athens. And even if no wrongdoing is uncovered, the use of such patches illustrates the lengths to which some coaches and athletes will go in search of a competitive edge.

USA Swimming spokeswoman Mary Wagner acknowledged that some coaches questioned the patches during the trials, held July 7-14 in Long Beach. Wagner said national team director Everett Uchiyama asked Stanford women’s coach Richard Quick for samples, which he provided. Those samples were forwarded to USADA, Wagner said.

Quick said that as well as the Kirks, Lacey Boutwell, Lauren Costella, Ashley Daly and Kirsten Gilbert wore patches. Of those six, only the Kirks made the U.S. team: Tara in the 100-meter breaststroke and Dana in the 200-meter butterfly.

Wagner of USA Swimming said no swimmers had a positive drug test at the trials.

Tara Kirk, who completed her Stanford career this year, acknowledged that she and her teammates were asked about the patches during the college season and again at the Olympic trials, mostly by fellow swimmers. Kirk said she believes in the patches, but she did not seem convinced they help significantly.

“With all the things we try, if there’s an effect at all, it’s pretty subtle,” she said. “If I let my mind think it may work, then that’s obviously going to help.”

Quick, a three-time Olympic head coach who will serve as an assistant for the U.S. women’s team in Athens, defended the patches as a new training device he began using earlier this year. Quick said he offered to stop using the patches in races at the trials after other coaches’ reservations were brought to his attention.

Quick said it was “not a concern at all” that the samples were sent to USADA. The patches are designed to electronically stimulate acupuncture points, inserting current into the body to help an athlete improve stamina, according to Schmidt. No substances enter the body, Schmidt said.

Travis Tygart, USADA’s director of legal affairs, said his agency does not comment on the substance of any investigation. Tygart also said, “We’re certainly appreciative of anyone coming forward to assist USADA in helping assure clean competitions.”

Stanford swimmers wore the patches on the front of their shoulders at the Olympic trials, in such plain view that even spectators noticed them.

“We’re not trying to hide anything, because it was out there in broad daylight,” Quick said.

USA Swimming officials never told Quick the patches were prohibited. He instructed his swimmers to stop wearing them during races at the trials, he said, to avoid the perception of wrongdoing. The swimmers continued to use them during warm-ups.

The patches generated a buzz in swimming circles. Several coaches and swimmers said they were a popular topic of conversation poolside and after the trials.

“Everybody’s looking at them funny, and everybody is concerned about them, because drugs are an issue,” said Dick Jochums, head coach of the Santa Clara Swim Club. “I don’t think we (in swimming) are as lily-clean as everyone thinks. But if you were going to use drugs, I don’t think you’d do it in the open like that.”

Randy Reese, head coach of Longhorn Aquatics, a swim club in Austin, Texas, noticed Stanford swimmers wearing the patches earlier this year. Reese had no idea what they were, but he also said, “When you see something like that, you’re always skeptical, especially with everything you’re hearing now (about drugs in sports).”

Quick said he learned about the patch in February from a friend who is a doctor and who had read about it. Quick, long known for trying cutting-edge training techniques, contacted Schmidt, whose company, LifeWave Products, is based in Suwanee, Ga., outside Atlanta. Schmidt went to Stanford, demonstrated how the product works and assured Quick and his swimmers that no chemicals enter the body.

Schmidt described the LifeWave Energy Enhancer as two circular patches, each about 1 5/8 inches in diameter, with an adhesive backing. The patch essentially looks like an adhesive bandage. Schmidt said his company recommends using them on any of four acupuncture points: on the wrists, on the chest, around the knees and on the inside of the ankles.

Schmidt said he invented a way to stimulate acupuncture points electronically without moving herbs or drugs through the skin. He described the process as programming amino acids in water-based solutions, much the way computer chips are programmed, to send information into the body without magnets or batteries.

The result, Schmidt claimed, is that a person’s stamina improves within 10 minutes of using the product.

 

Mercury News Blog Talks about Hardy, Doping

Here’s a link to the San Jose Mercury News and it’s blog on the Olympic Games specifically Jessica Hardy and the breaking story of her positive doping tests.

I spoke with Tara’s mother, Margaret Kirk, today and she said there’s virtually no hope Tara would be added to the team. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) would have to allow the U.S. to change its roster, and in turn then allow any country to do the same.

What seems odd to me is why USA Swimming has the criteria it does? Why do they have to use swimmers from the roster it has? That would leave them with 25 women, and the full 26-man roster.

Why not basically call up the next fastest swimmer from the trials and add them to the team? Much like an NFL team would call up a practice squad member, or a MLB team calling up a minor leaguer to fill out its roster. It just seems odd that USA Swimming would rather go to the Olympics without a full women’s team, rather than bring in a swimmer who is clean and deserves to be there.