Hi and thanks for stopping by! Here’s a bit about me, my athletic career, and causes I care about:
I grew up in Texas, Virginia, Heidelberg and Berlin, Germany, Maryland, and Gainesville, Florida as the daughter of a JAG Corps army officer (father) and a spunky teacher and artist (mother). My childhood revolved around academics, sport, and art. My involvement in swimming began because my parents required that my brothers and I played a sport seriously at some point to instill a focus on maintaining physical health. At the age of 7, there were three options to choose from for sport participation: softball, soccer, and swimming. I took to swimming more naturally and I loved to race. After a few years, I started winning races more regularly as a part of the European Forces Swim League representing the Heidelberg Sea Lions and the Berlin Barracudas. Back stateside, I continued on as a member of the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers and the Florida Aquatics Swim Team in Gainesville, Florida. In Maryland, I started being able to out-swim not only the girls my age, but the boys as well. I began to train with older guys which was a wonderful experience. I have a lot of great memories of protective older brother “types,” intense practice sessions, pranks, and a lot of laughter. At the age of 14 at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials, I jumped from being tied for 71st place in the country in the 200 meter breastroke to placing 5th in the final race of the competition. At that point, I realized that the Olympic dream may actually be possible for me. I devoted as much time as possible to training while also being enrolled in the demanding curriculum of the International Baccalaureate educational program. In high school, I was known as the athlete who was always eating during class or grabbing a nap in an empty classroom during the lunch break. Amongst my teammates in training for the Atlanta Olympic Games, I was known for unusual “dryland” training methods, winning races by "touching people out," an intense work ethic, as one of the few swimmers at UF that Olympian Anthony Nesty would welcome to train in his lane, for pioneering the use of a new back-to-breast transition medley turn, and for setting a world record while winning a world championship race against a doping athlete. There is also a wikipedia entry here about my time as a swimmer. It is mostly accurate with the exceptions of the previous world record holder (Tracy Caulkins, one of my swimming idols as a kid) and the omission of all of the other places I lived and competed as a kid.
I'm delighted to be a member of the International Women’s Forum and Ernst & Young’s Women Athlete Business Networking class of 2019, a founding member of Art of the Olympians - an organization promoting the Olympic ideals through sport and art educational programs, a member of the Global Gene Corp team aiming to diversify the world's bank of genetic data, a member of Champion Women's Committee to Restore Integrity - focused on the prevention of child abuse in sport, and a former member of Team Darfur which raised awareness about genocide in Sudan. I’m passionate about human rights and, specifically, child rights, climate preservation and rehabilitation efforts, privacy and security-oriented technologies, the betterment of healthcare and education in America, and Olympic anti-doping reform.
About my interest in Olympic anti-doping reform: I raced against multiple doping athletes during my reign as one of the world’s best medley swimmers - some from systemic doping regimes and some not. The systemic doping programs almost always involve the doping of children (under the age of 18). I competed against many child athletes who were being doped without their knowledge. Could you imagine finding out years after your Olympic career that you had been doped and that you may or may not face a multitude of health-related issues that typically result from the use of performance-enhancing drugs? Or that the health-related issues you already deal with were most likely caused by the drugs your coach or trainer told you were vitamins? I have met and known multiple athletes who are living this experience. I also would like to see doping violations treated just as harshly as violations of rules of play. If you’re interested in doping in sport and what I have to say about Olympic anti-doping reform, check out these panels and interviews:
An article by Ben Jervey in GOOD magazine about clean athletes competing against steroids.
An article by Michael Moynihan of the Irish Examiner talking about the Rio Games.
An interview by David Reider of Swimming World about the role of athletes in anti-doping efforts.
Swimming is one of the “cleaner” sports (i.e. not as much doping) as compared to some other sports like cycling and track, but it too has a storied past. This article about Shirley Babashoff, American Olympic swimmer of the Montreal Games, is great for a bit of insight.
One idea is that perhaps Olympic sponsors could structure contracts with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) so that payment is correlated to the percentage of athletes tested for doping at the Olympic Games. Sponsors could withhold entirety of payment until it is determined that all athletes are tested for doping at the Olympic Games. The World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Observers report showed that over 50% of athletes weren’t even tested for doping at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
Additionally, there needs to be a non-IOC-administered and independent worldwide policing force established to monitor doping. The Olympic movement needs to not be dependent on each country upholding anti-doping standards that are often viewed as an obstacle to overcome in order to win more Olympic medals. The existing safeguards are great in theory, but in practice there is a lot of room for improvement.
Regarding what athletes can do to support anti-doping reform, children rights issues, and other human rights issues, I love Olympian Nikki Dryden’s suggestion that Olympic athletes join the World Players Association. Many of the current challenges in Olympic sport which affect athletes and the environments in which athletes train could be benefited by joining an already powerful union for support. An increased number (and more varied diversity) of athlete representatives actively involved on the boards of sport governing bodies would be helpful as well.
Say hi if you’d like and have a great 2019!
Image credits - Black and white, warming up for a competition: USA Swimming. On the Atlanta 1996 Olympic podium: Doug Mills/Associated Press.