Doping Control Officers (DCOs) are key U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) staff members and play a vital role in the anti-doping movement as a whole. These trained employees are the ones knocking on athlete doors and greeting athletes as they cross the finish line, in order to conduct and assist them with the sample collection process. DCOs have been part of USADA’s team since our founding in 2000, and we’d like to take a moment to highlight some of our staff who have been with us since inception. Their stories will show just how much the world of anti-doping has changed over the past 15 years.
Laura Hahn started testing athletes as a DCO in 1996 when the job was a function of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). In the beginning, working at USADA, she remembers wearing her USADA shirt and people questioning if she was part of the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture, one letter off in the acronym) coming for a meat inspection! Now, she says people recognize the name USADA and associate it with something good for sports.
In describing the changes in the early days compared to now, she said, “We asked very basic information of the athlete [in the early years]. Now things are more uniform so information flowing is the same,” she says. Also, she points out that in the beginning there was no blood test, only urine.
She, and the athletes, like the advancements in technology that help eliminate any risks for human error and make the sample collection process more smooth. In regards to the iPad process, she says, “It is fast and athletes don’t have to worry about making a mistake. The new athletes don’t understand that, but the old ones who have done paper want the iPad!”
Another improvement Laura has seen, thanks to technology, centers around athlete whereabouts and updating. She says, “We were mailed assignments at the beginning of the quarter (usually after the quarter started) for each athlete which included stacks of paperwork.” She points out that when athletes would have to update their schedules that information typically took a long time to get to the DCOs. Now, things are much more instantaneous!
Laura has participated in a lot of anti-doping and Olympic events including: attending the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, training DCOs in Salt Lake City prior to that Games, and attending the WADA conference in Norway.