637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

This time they are out for blood

Another morning and another rather insistent knock on the door. This time I am awoken from a deep sleep by pounding at my front door. Grudgingly I open my eyes and look at the clock. 7:00 on the nose. Too close to the start of the hour and too early to be a random visitor. I sit up and contemplate whether I should bother answering or not. Usually, unless I'm expecting a delivery I will ignore anyone at this hour. But the knocking isn't stopping; whoever it is means business and they seemingly aren't leaving until they get some face time with me.

So I fumble around for some clothes, strap my leg on and head downstairs. Scanning the living room, I quickly grab the pile of plates and clothes lying on the floor from the night before and dump them in the kitchen, closing the door behind me and 'try' and make the room look presentable. It's not working.

Bikes and boxes fill my living area
My living area is a sea of bikes, bike parts, bike clothing, bike tools, bike trainers, etc. It's like a bike factory vomited all over the floor, leaving a trail of grease and grime. But it's a testament to how much cycling rules my life and how little time I dedicate to anything else (as in cleaning!). My living area is most definitely NOT guest-friendly. 

With a sense of guilt (because of the mess and not because I have anything to hide) I open the door to see who it is. But before the turn of the deadbolt I already know who's going to be there. It's anti-doping – back again for more.

On the one hand I shouldn't be surprised. It's what they do; it's their job to collect the samples and make sure we are all clean. I suppose my shock came from the fact that I only recently received the letter informing me that my last test was clean (not that I was particularly worried – but it's always nice to know everything is on the up and up). Since joining the testing pool earlier this year I had only been tested out of competition the one time. I was starting to think the tests for us Paralympians were not a priority and were going to be few and far between.

There was a difference this time though. Instead of the duo of testers that greeted me last time, today I was faced with a trio. It seems I'm getting more popular and they brought a friend to meet me. Not satisfied with making me pee into a cup, this time they want blood. And I mean it!

The testing procedure, as always, is quick and professional. I don't envy the man whose only contribution to the process seems to be watching the urine physically leave my body while it fills up the sample collection container. I haven't had a chance yet to ask if they pay him more than minimum wage for his troubles. I fear I would be taking the piss if I did. Instead of the other way around.

We go through the motions. Sample containers are filled, labels checked and rechecked, paperwork filled out and signed off. As I've said before – I believe in testing and I consider it part of MY job to conform to the rules. If they want to come and collect my urine daily, that's fine with me. (But please make sure you are also testing the other athletes out there. I want a clean field of competition).

Once the urine is taken care of, it's time for me to meet the new member of the team. Today I am giving blood to the cause. More paperwork, sample containers, serial numbers and so on. I fill up the vials with my red life-force and sign off that everything is above board. I've never had blood taken before for testing so this is a new one on me. I suppose it means they will be doing more in-depth testing and screening for more banned substances than can be found in the urine. And I say.... good. Bring it on. Let's keep this great sport clean.

While the testers are doing their thing, I mention to them that I am surprised to see them again so soon after the last time. But they very rightly point out that with the Paralympics quickly approaching, testing is increasing to make sure all the athletes are clean. I can expect to see them again and on a regular basis as next September draws ever closer. I'm going to have to clean up my house a bit I think.

My experience today is nothing special. As I've said before – it's part and parcel of being an elite athlete. I support drug testing and will gladly donate my samples at any time. I hope other countries are doing their part and testing their athletes also on a regular basis. There have been a few cases in the past year of Paralympic cyclists getting caught for banned substances – so I assume the process is working. And it just goes to show, that even though we are 'just Paralympic athletes', that people will try and beat the system at any level of competition.

For the briefest of moments I wondered if this test, coming as soon as it did after the last one, was a result of me writing about the process. I wondered if I had somehow publicly shed light on a process that was meant to be kept secret and as a result I was now being targeted for testing. Foolishness obviously. It is clear to me now that it's simply a measure of my improving status in the sporting world. But it sure is a funny way to start your work day.