Former U.S. National Team Member Dr. Tobie Smith Named to USADA Board of Directors

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Dr. Tobie Smith, a former U.S. National Team member and top open water swimmer, has been appointed to serve on the USADA Board of Directors, Swimming World has learned. She fills the spot of Don Gambril, a former coach of the University of Alabama and of the U.S. Olympic team.

“I was extremely honored when USA Swimming notified me they were nominating me for this position. I am humbled they put their trust in me and feel I can represent the voice of our athletes on USADA’s Board,” Smith said.

Gambril endorsed the selection of his replacement. “I believe she has the experience to be a strong part of the discussions at board meetings. Her experience and background will prove to be valuable,” he wrote in an email.

Dr. Smith swam at the University of Texas, where she won the NCAA title in the 1650 free in 1994, and she was the World Champion in the 25k open water swim in 1998. Later, she completed a solo crossing of the English Channel. She attended medical school at Stony Brook and received a Masters in public health from Johns Hopkins, Today, she is Medical Director for Health Care of the Homeless in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Photo Courtesy: J.Fingerhut

Several years ago, Dr. Smith represented USA Swimming on a FINA task force to investigate athlete safety in open water races after Fran Crippen lost his life in a race in the United Arab Emirates in late 2010.

In an email to Swimming World, she explained that she believes USADA’s efforts to even the playing field in sports is similar to her goals as a physician in giving patients the opportunity to make the best decisions for their health with as few obstacles as possible.

Smith explained that while athletes and coaches are today well-informed on the risks of using banned substances, she feels that education is lacking among physicians, much to the detriment of athletes.

“I remember back when I was being drug tested and – at the same time – needed to be prescribed a medication. My doctor could not tell me if this medicine was banned. He left the decision to take the medicine or not to me At that point in my athletic career, I needed a pharmaceutical treatment, I needed to pass my drug test and I needed help from my doctor on how to accomplish both. I don’t want our athletes to also find themselves in that situation.”

Smith hopes that anti-doping authorities will be able to stay on top of most current science in order to thwart future doping violations, and she condemns efforts to undermine the doping system, such as the recently-discovered state-sponsored doping program in Russia.

“This situation not only affects our elite athletes, it erodes the confidence of all our athletes. How can we tell our young athletes to believe that sport represents the best of society – work hard, be dedicated and committed, and you will succeed –if we allow people to compete and win through cheating and don’t hold them, and their governing federations, responsible?”