This year I had the opportunity to represent Brown at the Boston Interfaith Leadership Initiative. BILI, as the program is known, is an initiative of Hebrew College‘s Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership. My first of two blog posts about the experience is published on the State of Formation blog here.
The news that my good friend Karel Tammjärv was arrested for blood doping on Wednesday at the World Championships in Austria hit me like a truck. My emotions are complicated and confusing. It has been extremely painful and disorienting. I have felt anger and sadness and betrayal. I have also felt empathy and fear and sympathy.
One sure thing is that my heart is broken. It’s broken because sport is broken. It’s broken because we as a community are failing. It’s broken because sport has so much potential for good. And it’s broken because another little kid is going to have his world shattered like mine was by Lance Armstrong.
I have reached out to Karel, and I hope to hear from him. He’s a human being. He’s generous and thoughtful and funny and kind. Most of all he’s my friend.
I had a hard time deciding on an image to use for this post. I considered a picture of Karel exploring with me in the desert because those pictures remind me of the wonderful adventures we’ve shared. They complicate my emotions.
However, I decided on the photo below from September 27th, 2016. It makes me nauseous. I took it on top of Guardsman Pass at the end of a five hour classic roller ski session on day 10 of a 14 day training camp that we did together in Park City, Utah. After being released from Austrian prison, Karel said in a press conference on Friday that he began doping in 2016. I have no idea if he had started doping before he joined me in Utah, but this picture strikes me as ironic and painful.
This post is as discombobulated as my thoughts and feelings. Thank you for bearing with me and for your love and support. Please help me create the change we so desperately need.
It’s a big day for Global Sport! Global Athlete, an organization by athletes and for athletes, launched this morning to create positive change in world sport, to balance the power that exists between athletes and sporting leaders, and to secure a more meaningful and representative athlete voice for all decisions in sport.
I believe in the power of sport to be a global force for good, but only if it’s sport with integrity. That’s why I am proud to be a part of this new global athlete movement, and I hope you will join me. You can learn more and join the movement at http://globalathlete.org/.
I’m so excited to announce that Fantasy Cross Country is back for the 2018-19 season! This year we’re partnering with Boulder Nordic Sport and the site is live for you to make your picks at fantasy.bouldernordic.com.
Once again we’ve made some exciting changes for this season. Most importantly, you can now select your team up to an hour before the start of the first race, so you can use the start lists to help you make your selections. You can find details on the How to Play page.
The first race is this Saturday, November 24th at 11.00 Eastern European Time. Don’t forget to make your picks before then!
Next week the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will vote on whether to reinstate the Russian Federation as “Fully Compliant” in world sport. Russia has been non-compliant following the release of investigative findings relating to the state-sponsored doping program at the Sochi Olympics.
I fully support and endorse the position of the UK Anti-Doping Athlete Commission outlined in the following letter to the WADA president.
Dear Sir Craig Reedie, WADA President,
On behalf of the UK Anti-Doping Athlete Commission, and fellow international athletes, we write to you to insist you and the WADA Executive Committee vote to maintain WADA’s current position on the reinstatement of Russia.
Two of the conditions directed by the Russia Roadmap have not yet been met, and to readmit them despite this would be a catastrophe for clean sport. We play our sports by the rules, and we expect the institutions that govern us, and which are there to protect us and our competition, to play by the rules too.
The Roadmap clearly outlines what Russia must do to be allowed back. To ignore these conditions, ignores the wishes of the athletes you are there to protect. Athletes will no longer have faith in the system. It will undermine trust in the essence of fair play on which sport is formed.
We, the athletes, insist you hold the line on the Roadmap.
Do not U-turn.
Do not fail Clean Sport.
The Athletes of UK Anti-Doping Athlete Commission:
Andrew Triggs Hodge
Vicki Aggar Chair of the British Athletes Commission
On Saturday night I had the honor of giving the keynote address at the US Anti Doping Agency’s (USADA’s) biennial DCO Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The USADA DCOs, or Doping Control Officers, are the individuals responsible for collecting blood and urine samples in and out of competition from athletes in the US, both native and foreign athletes.
Here are my remarks, as prepared.
This is such a unique opportunity, and it is such an honor for me to talk to you all tonight. Very few athletes have the chance to get you all in one room, though I am much more used to seeing you in a far more intimate settings.
I want to start with the most important thing that I can do today, and that is to say, “thank you”. Thank you from me personally. Thank you from me and Greta and Tammy and the Athlete Presenter program. Thank you from the U.S. Cross Country ski team. Thank you from Team USA in Pyeongchang. Thank you from all of Ski and Snowboard. Thank you from all 2600 RTP athletes in the U.S. And thank you from the 1 million+ athletes in the U.S. who compete in sports regulated by the WADA code. Our right to compete in clean sport does not exist without each and every one of you and the tireless work that you do. Thank you for leveling the playing field. Thank you for giving us a fair shot at our dreams.
As athletes, we complain endlessly about your 6am knocks on the door, and in the process, we forget that you were up at 2 to drive 4 hours to collect our samples. We get frustrated that you disrupted our day without thinking about the fact that you spent 8 hours in the car to drive across three states to test us. We procrastinate and rush through our Whereabouts without considering the fact that you have to somehow derive meaning from the cacophony of addresses we throw at you. We stress about missing a test, but then move on with our lives, knowing it will be cleared from the record after 12 months. Before this morning, when I learned about the protocol for an “unsuccessful attempt”, I had no idea that one of you sat outside my house for two hours just to turn around and drive home empty handed when I didn’t show up.
I had the honor of being tested by Rob, Mary, Danielle and Travis throughout my career. I was also tested by Steve, who one time showed up at my house in Aspen shortly after my cat had been diagnosed with asthma. The vet had prescribed the cat steroids, half a pill to be exact. One day I came into the kitchen to find my mom cutting the steroid pill in half on the same cutting board that we used for food. When Steve showed up I was so convinced that I was going to test positive for my cat’s steroids that I almost didn’t submit to the test. I was ready to accept my sanction on the spot.
Most often during my career I was tested by Gary. Gary couldn’t be here this weekend because his brother-in-law passed away last week, but I had the honor of speaking to him on the phone yesterday. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to tell you all about how he made me make him breakfast every time he showed up to collect a sample.
I know about some of the horrible things that you all put up with. I was dating Emilia when she placed her pee cup without a lid on the edge of the bathtub and it slowly slid to the edge and then crashed to the floor while she was pulling up her pants. I’m glad you all have finished dinner because I heard all about Kris having diarrhea and not being able to stop it from coming out both ends while he was providing a sample. I know how rude athletes can be to anti-doping officials because I showed my extreme displeasure when a WADA tester woke me up in Davos, Switzerland at 6am, thinking he was knocking on Kikkan’s door.
And so that brings me to the second most important thing that I want to say to you all today, and that is “I’m Sorry”. I’m sorry for my behavior. I’m sorry for the behavior of my teammates, friends and competitors. I’m sorry for our rudeness. I’m sorry for our grossness. I’m sorry four our selfishness. I’m sorry for our cockiness. And I’m sorry for our entire lack of shame. I wish I could say that it won’t happen again, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that athletes will continue to put themselves first. Your patience, persistence and understanding are extraordinary.
This morning Jimmy (Moody) talked about his dream that one day we will never need a USADA because every athlete will have the utmost integrity and personal responsibility. In contrast, Bryan (Fogel) said today that he believes the anti-doping war is one we can never win. Until either one of those things happen, we need each of you.
You all got to hear from Greta and Tammy this morning about our new Athlete Presenter program. I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this organization. I am discovering what you all have known for a long time: anti-doping is not only a fulfilling way to stay involved in sport, it is also full of the most incredible people. Every single person that I have met at this organization is passionate about clean sport and pursues their work tirelessly. I’ve never once heard a complaint when I text Danielle social media content first thing on a Sunday morning. When I ask Tammy a trivial question at 10:15 at night, she …tolerates… it. And we are so lucky to have Travis (Tygart) leading this organization. His determination to fight for the rights of clean athletes and to push back against WADA and the IOC in the interest of clean sport is incredible.
I have some personal experience when it comes to feeling the effect of doping on sport. One of the first of my international competitors that I got to know well was an Austrian by the name of Johannes Duerr. Johannes was my age, and we first got to know each other at the World Junior Championships in Mals, Italy in 2008. We were both distance specialists and were about the same level. We quickly became friends as we discovered that we had a lot in common outside of skiing. Our friendship strengthened over the years as we both progressed to the World Cup circuit. We were often close to each other on the results sheet and truly wanted to see each other succeed. We remained at a similar level until the 2013-14 season when Johannes jumped from being a top-30 skier to a consistent podium contender. I too took a large jump and earned my first World Cup stage win during the opening weekend of the season, but I was much less consistent than Johannes. I was impressed, jealous and full of wonder about how he made such a leap. Rumors started flying immediately that Johannes might be doping but I refused to believe them. I still believe in innocent until proven guilty. And he was one of my good friends.
Both Johannes and I came into the Tour de Ski with a lot of confidence. The Tour de Ski is the most important World Cup event of the year, consisting of seven stages in nine days at four venues spread throughout three countries. The first couple stages included two sprints. I am a terrible sprinter. By day five I was a long way back in the standings. The fifth stage was a 35 kilometer point-to-point race up and over a pass from Cortina to Toblach, Italy. The pursuit start format meant that I was starting well behind the main group. That day I had the race of my life. It was one of those days that athletes dream about having and after they experience it once, they spend the rest of their careers trying to recapture the feeling. I literally couldn’t go hard enough to hurt myself. I was essentially skiing as fast as I could for the entire 17 kilometer uphill to the top of the pass. I was rolling by other skiers without giving them a second glance. I knew they couldn’t stay with me. With one kilometer to the top the main group of over 20 skiers came into view. It’s super unusual in cross country skiing for an individual athlete to catch a large group because of the advantages of the group working together. Most of this group had started more than two minutes in front of me. With a huge final surge, I caught the group just as they crested the summit, and I got a much-needed draft on the 17 kilometer blazing fast downhill to the finish. My timing in seeing and catching the group could not have been better, and with my incredible climb, I knew I’d had the race of my life. There was nothing I would have done differently. I thought I must have had the fastest time of the day. I doubted anyone could ski faster than what I’d just done. Not only had I felt better than I ever had before, including when I’d won only two months earlier, I also timed it perfectly by catching the group and getting a “ride” down the final 17 kilometers.
During the Tour de Ski, with back-to-back-to-back races, there is no time to worry about results. I had to immediately cool down, shower, pack and get in the car to the next venue. It wasn’t until several hours later, lying on my bed in a new hotel, that I found out the results from the stage. I was second. Not only did I not win, I was 56 seconds slower than the winner, a margin so big I might as well have been in a different race. The winner, of course, was Johannes. I had mixed feelings. I was still proud of the way I’d skied. I was happy to be second but was disappointed that I didn’t win with an effort that I knew was special. I was happy for Johannes, but I was also bewildered at how he’d done it. How did he ski that much faster than me? He didn’t even have a group to draft off on the downhill!
A month later I was sitting at breakfast with Johannes in the Olympic Village. It was the day before the Olympic 50k, the final race of the Games and the most important race to both of us. We chatted about the course and the shenanigans of our teammates who were done competing. I don’t remember anything remarkable about the conversation. Four hours later I was again lying on my bed when I received a New York Times News Alert on my phone stating that cross-country skier Johannes Duerr from Austria had been sent home from the Olympics and conditionally suspended from sport for testing positive for EPO. I have not seen or spoken to Johannes since that day, not because I hate him or hold a grudge against him, simply because I have not reached out to him and he has not reached out to me. He was one of my good friends. As you all know, doping is complicated.
Johannes later admitted publicly that he had been taking EPO since June. In press conferences he said that he doped because he felt huge pressure to ski faster to financially support his wife and their newborn son. Sometime later that summer the results on the International Ski Federation website changed to say that I had won the fifth stage of the Tour de Ski. Nobody noticed but me.
Sport is really an amazing thing. It brings people together in a way that almost nothing else can. It transcends political and class lines. It is a source of joy and happiness and health in almost every society in the world. It teaches young people goal setting and persistence. It gives athletes a sense of accomplishment like nothing else I have ever felt, and it lets fans believe in miracles. Like referees and judges, coaches and physiologists, none of it happens without you.
As a middle schooler, I believed in Lance Armstrong. I watched all 7 of his Tour wins. In fact, he was my inspiration to be the best in the world. When I decided I wanted to be an endurance athlete, I modeled my training after him. When I went out on 100-mile solo bike rides as a 14-year-old, simply because that’s what I saw Lance doing on T.V. He was my hero.
I have not watched a single bike race since October 10th, 2012, the day USADA released the US Postal Service Investigative findings. I still feel anger, betrayal and shame when I think about pro cycling. The whole thing was a lie.
On a more positive note, I am only 6 months into retirement, and already, as I look back on my career, the biggest highlight, the thing that I am most proud of, is not any of my results, it is watching my teammates Jessie and Kikkan win the first medal in U.S. Women’s Cross Country Skiing history, the first gold medal for U.S. Cross Country Skiing. I will never forget standing at that finish line and watching those women, who are both like sisters to me, cross that finish line. I believe that moment will be one of the highlights of my life. Not only am I full of love and admiration for Kikk and Diggs, I am also certain of the integrity of their win.
I believe that if we as a sports community prioritize anti-doping, push for a stronger and more independent WADA, fund anti-doping in the same way we fund the Olympic Games, and keep our strong belief in, passion for and tireless commitment to clean sport, we can create more Jessie and Kikkan moments and fewer Lance moments.
No matter how thankless your job may seem, not a single Jessie and Kikkan moment happens without the work of each and every one of you. The early mornings, the late nights, the long waits in a stranger’s kitchen, the endless logistics and paperwork, the struggles with Google maps, the interminable car rides… All of it adds up to an entire generation of kids growing up with heroes who are actually worthy of being heroes, heroes like Jessie and Kikkan. You all make those moments possible. You all are the ones behind the scenes ensuring that a win is actually a win, that inspiring moments are actually worthy of being inspiring. You all allow us to believe. Thank you for everything you do.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), whom I have started to work for as an Athlete Presenter, has a partner brand called TrueSport. TrueSport works to instill positive values of sportsmanship, character building and healthy performance in young athletes, primarily ages 8 to 14. The TrueSport values also include integrity, respect, teamwork, courage, and responsibility. It is a brand that I am truly honored to support.
When I was filming with USADA for my Athlete Presenter Introductory Video, I also had the opportunity to talk about TrueSport. In particular, I wanted to highlight the importance that young athletes take ownership over their careers. The content team then put together a great 3-minute edit for TrueSport.org. You can check it out here or by clicking on the picture below.
I am honored to be working with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to talk to athletes about their rights and responsibilities in the anti-doping process and what it means to compete clean. During my training, I got to sit down with the USADA content department to discuss my career, my core values and my passion for the anti-doping movement. They produced a really high quality 3-minute video introducing me as one of their athlete presenters. I think you’ll enjoy it! Check it out here.
I am very excited to share that I have been accepted to Brown University and will begin taking classes on September 5th in Providence, Rhode Island. I am honored to be enrolled at such a prestigious school, and I believe that Brown will help me develop the skills necessary to transition into the next phase of my life.
I will begin my postsecondary studies from the very beginning with no transferred credits, and I plan to spend four years completing my undergraduate degree. At the start of school, I will be 29 years old (after my birthday on August 1st).
Specifically, I was accepted, along with 12 other students, to Brown’s Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) Program. The RUE program is designed for older, non-traditional students. To be eligible to apply, students must be out of high school for six or more years and cannot have more than two years of full-time college experience. As a RUE student, I will take the same classes and earn the same degree as other Brown students. The application deadline for the RUE program was March 1st. The deadline for traditional students was January 1st. The additional two months to complete the RUE application allowed me to work on it at my convenience without disrupting my preparations for the Olympics. In addition, the RUE application did not require SAT or ACT standardized test scores. This was important to me because my ACT scores from 2006 had expired. Lastly, as a RUE student I am not required to live on campus, and I will work with an advisor dedicated specifically to the RUE undergraduate population.
I do not know what exactly I will study at Brown. Eventually I want to work to change public policy to address social justice issues including income, wealth and opportunity inequity. Therefore, I am interested in studying public policy, economics and law. I also want to develop my public speaking and communications skills, and I want to continue to grow the marketing skills that I learned as a professional skier. I am grateful to be starting college as a freshman because I will have the opportunity to take courses in many different subject areas to help me choose my eventual degree path. Fittingly, Brown is known for their ‘Open Curriculum’ which gives students responsibility for the direction of their learning.
Along with my acceptance, Brown awarded me a huge need-based financial aid package. The cost of attending Brown for the 2018-19 academic year is $61,097. This price includes student health insurance, books and supplies, and an academic records fee; it excludes room and board and personal expenses. To cover this cost, I was awarded a Federal Pell Grant totaling $3,470 and a Brown University Scholarship totaling $53,234. Consequently, my cost for the 2018-19 school year will be $4,393 + room and board and personal expenses. I am eligible for this huge scholarship because I am over the age of 24 (and therefore financially independent from my parents) and because I only made $9,206 in 2017 (after deducting skiing business expenses).
To cover my remaining expenses, I have a 529 College Savings Account totaling $68,282.16 that was funded by my parents and both sets of my grandparents. Also, I have started working for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) doing presentations to athletes. I hope to continue this well-paying work throughout my time at school.
I am very aware of my privilege; it is a motivating force in my life. I am a straight, cisgender, able-bodied, healthy, white male from a strong nuclear family who was raised upper-middle class in one of the most affluent communities in the richest country in the history of human civilization (Aspen, Colorado). Subsequently I have lived in Sun Valley, Idaho, Hanover, New Hampshire and Park City, Utah, all of which are amongst the most affluent communities in the world. I have never been discriminated against. I am an embodiment of privilege.
Now, I am moving from a successful career as a professional cross-country skier and two-time Olympian straight to an Ivy League education. I am both grateful for and uneasy about my opportunities. My privilege makes me feel a sense of guilt and shame, but more than anything it instills in me a drive to close opportunity gaps.
Thank you for supporting me in the first chapter of my journey. I hope that you will stay with me through this next installment. I will do my best to share my story. When the time comes, I hope that you will join me in creating lasting, positive and deliberate change.
If you followed my blog from 2013 to 2016, you read a lot about my girlfriend-at-the-time Emilia Wint. Emilia just graduated from Westminster College. She also just published a piece of writing that, for the first time, talks about her diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa. She was diagnosed while we were dating. It is a very personal piece; I think anyone who followed my career at that time will find it interesting. (Even if you didn’t read my blog then, Emilia’s piece is worth the read.) You can find it here: