In 2016, at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, I was randomly selected to be drug tested.
Drug testing is standard in elite sports, though the transparency and knowledge of the process isn’t widely known.
At every figure skating competition sanctioned by the International Skating Union (ISU), there are two athletes randomly chosen from each event to be tested, in order to preserve the integrity of the sport. You also acknowledge the possibility that drug testers can show up at your door at any time in any place and require you to take a test.
My first and only time being drug tested was quite a process, one that I hope you’ll find as interesting as I did.
Getting Selected for Drug Testing
In 2016, I qualified for the Junior World Figure Skating Championships after placing 2nd at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. Excited and at the peak of my skating career, I headed to Hungary with a determination and excitement for what was to come.
In figure skating, there are two programs. The short program which is around 2 minutes, and the long program which is around 4 minutes. The short program always comes first, and typically the long program is the next day (sometimes there is an extra day in between).
In Hungary, the short program was completed in the early evening. My partner and I skated pretty well, and we were happy with our placement and result.
Right as I stepped off the ice after my short program, there was a man waiting there for me. Panting and sweating, I looked at him and he immediately let me know that I had been randomly selected by the drug testing agency and would need to complete a urine test.
He also assigned someone, a local college student, to watch over me. I was instructed that I couldn’t go anywhere without him. He had to follow me and watch my every move, whether that was to the cafeteria, bathroom, or the stands. I was also not allowed to leave the venue until my test had been completed.
I believe that the way they conduct the random drawing is similar to the way our skate orders are determined. Tokens in the form of plastic chips are numbered for each competitor, and placed into a bag. One at a time, each individual walks to the bag, reaches in, and grabs a chip. Whatever number is drawn, is the number you skate.
For the drug test, there is likely a predetermined number for each athlete, based on the alphabetical order of entries. When the number is drawn, they check to correlated name, and there’s your lucky winner. (It used to be the case that the champion was automatically tested and one other random athlete, however this was changed around five years ago).
Being Followed Until I Could Pee
After I received my scores and the next skater was up, I walked with my new concierge to the locker room. I took off my skates, changed out of my outfit into normal clothes, and got to talking.
I asked this man why he was here and what his role was, and he told me that this was his first time volunteering as a part of his university program. He was studying something in the medical field, but I unfortunately can’t remember what it was.
Comfortable and a little less sweaty, I grabbed a water bottle and started chugging. I also peed before going out on the ice, so I knew it would be a little while until I could go again.
The event was now completed and I walked to the draw room. In this draw, the order is determined in a similar way but you are grouped with 5 other competitors that placed similarly. (Essentially, places 1-5 are in the last group, places 6-10 in the second to last, etc.)
After completing the draw, I parted ways with my fellow competitors and headed to the drug testing room. I didn’t have to pee yet, and had now finished about 3 full water bottles to try and get things going. My new friend was still connected to my hip, as well as the US-team doctor and two members of the drug testing crew.
After I told my doctor this was my first time getting tested, he told me some great stories of other skaters that had gone as many as 6 hours without having to pee. I assured him this wouldn’t be the case for me, as I downed another water bottle.
Getting Drug Tested
When I sat down at the table in the drug testing room, there were three sealed boxes in front of me. I was told that I would be the only one who could choose or touch the box, and which was was up to me.
I chose one, and inside were three sealed bags with a plastic beaker in each. I was again the one to choose which of these bags to use, and the bottle I would be peeing in. This whole process is done to ensure there is no cheating or rigging.
Eventually, after 7 full water bottles down the hatch, I had to pee. I went into the bathroom, and one of the staff members followed me in.
I was told that I would need to fill the bottle up to a certain level (90 milliliters) and to stop once that was hit. I was also told that I would have to hold my shirt up with one hand, the bottle with my other hand, and I could not touch anything else.
Even more, I was instructed to raise my shirt and drop my pants to expose my mid section and spin around in a circle. Again, this is to make sure that I wasn’t using something or someone else’s pee in place of mine.
I did my business and we brought the bottle out, however I had only filled it up to 82 milliliters, and it wasn’t enough to complete the test. At this point, about 1.5 hours had passed since I stepped off the ice. Slightly annoyed, I grabbed another water bottle.
The Second Test
While waiting for nature to take its course, I was chatting with the staff members. They told me that there had to be a certain gravity in the urine sample as well. If the pee was too watered down, their machinery wouldn’t be able to properly read what was in it.
As I finished my ninth bottle of water, they gave me this little lecture and said I better stop or I’m going to be up all night peeing. In retrospect, that was definitely way too much water. I started to get nervous that when I was able to pee enough, it was be far too watered down.
That said, I soon had to pee again, and took the bottle into the bathroom for round 2. This time, I had to pee quite a lot. I filled up the bottle to the line, and finished the job into the urinal.
I took the bottle and handed it to the staff, who quickly checked the gravity of the sample. After confirming it was good enough to be properly tested, I attached a sticker to the cap and the side, sealing it. This was placed in a sealed bag, and a sealed box, both of which I had selected.
They let me know that this part was completed, and that they’ll be able to test it within a few weeks. “No news is good news” they assured me as I left the room.
Not Over Yet
Unfortunately, it was now 11:30 pm and the event had long concluded. The busses taking people from the rink to the hotel had stopped, and my partner, family, doctor, and myself were all but marooned a few miles away.
We found another competition staff member who had yet to leave the venue, and she radioed in a request for another bus to come. As if the waiting we had done so far wasn’t enough, we now sat for 30 minutes until the bus could get there.
It finally did, and we boarded, extremely tired and ready for a long night’s sleep.
But after a few minutes, I had to pee more than I’ve ever had to pee before. I started dancing and doing what I could to hold it in, and ran like the wind into the hotel when we arrived making it just in time. Turns out, you shouldn’t chug 9 bottles of water in a few hours.
A few more pees before bed made it all ok, because I slept through the night no problem. The next morning, we went to the rink and skated our long program, to an overall result of 9th place, and a great story to tell.