Column by Kristen Heiss
COLLEGE STATION, Texas, July 29. THE news about Jessica Hardy's positive drug test has been sending shock waves through swimming circles.
Unfortunately, whether Hardy intentionally took the substance or not, the news of a positive drug test for a U.S. Olympic team member has thrown a cloud of doubt over the integrity of the athletes from the United States.
Although I am an optimist and do not believe that most U.S. swimmers are doping, it is unfortunate that attention has been brought to U.S. swimming in this manner.
There has been a great deal of speculation among swimmers, coaches and fans as to whether the illegal substance was taken intentionally by Jessica Hardy.
As an elite athlete, she has a responsibility to be aware of everything that she consumes. USA Swimming and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) are very specific on what is illegal in and out of competition for swimmers.
At the athlete's disposal are online databases, call centers and rule books with information on legal and banned substances. The first thing I do every time I take any sort of drug is to look it up on the online database to see if it is allowable for swimmers by USADA.
Some people argue, in Hardy's defense, that she most likely took a tainted supplement.
In my mind, this is still an inexcusable reason for a positive drug test. Athletes are constantly being reminded that supplements are not regulated by the FDA: the nutritionist at USA Swimming sends out information telling athletes that the supplements may contain many additional, illegal substances besides what is listed on the label.
In short, supplements are labeled with a "take at your own risk" warning by USA Swimming and USADA. We as athletes know this. If an athlete is willing to take the gamble and take supplements, then he or she must be aware of the consequences that could follow as a result.
I know many swimmers that, for this reason, will not take any supplements.
Whether taking this substance was intentional or unintentional on Hardy's part, this positive drug test has almost certainly ruined the swimming career of an obviously talented athlete.
It has also left two swimmers at home who, in hindsight, should have been traveling to Beijing. It has reaffirmed in some people's mind that the sports world is a tainted one.
To me, it is sad that this news comes so shortly after an outstanding Olympic Trials for the United States and with the Olympic Games just around the corner. Hopefully, people will be able to push this knowledge to the side when watching the swims in Beijing and realize that most U.S. athletes continue to foster the honor of competing in a clean sport.