The Top Athletes Looking for an Edge and the Scientists Trying to Stop Them
DeeDee Trotter was on an airplane in 2006 when she overheard a passenger seated behind her discussing the steroids scandal. Federal investigators in the Balco case, named for a lab that produced supplements, would eventually implicate more than two dozen athletes for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, including Barry Bonds, baseball’s home run king, and Marion Jones, the track-and-field star, who would end up in jail, stripped of five Olympic medals.
“This guy was reading the newspaper and he said, ‘Oh, they’re all on drugs,’” recalls Trotter, a runner who won a gold medal in the 4 x 400 meter relay at the 2004 Olympics. She was furious. “I turned around and said, ‘Hey—excuse me, I’m sorry, but that’s not true. I’m a professional athlete and Olympic gold medalist, and I’m not on drugs. I’ve never even considered it.’ ” Currently vying to join the U.S. team and appear in her third Olympics, Trotter projects a sassy confidence. “It really upset me that it’s perceived that way—that if she runs fast, then she’s on drugs. I hated that and I gave him a little attitude.”
That airplane conversation prompted Trotter to create a foundation called Test Me, I’m Clean! “It gave us clean athletes a chance to defend ourselves,” says Trotter. “If you see someone wearing this wristband”—she holds up a rubbery white bracelet emblazoned with the group’s name—“it means that I am a clean athlete. I do this with hard work, honesty and honor. I don’t take any outside substances.”