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Meet Carissa Gump: Olympian and Anti-Doping Education Athlete Presenter

In 6th grade, Carissa Gump tried weightlifting for the first time at the encouragement of her middle school PE teacher. That encouragement and her participation in a casual after-school weightlifting program soon revealed her incredible potential for the sport and shaped the rest of her life. She revisited the sport in 8th grade, and after just two months of training, she qualified for her first national meet and subsequently placed second at junior nationals. Gump continued to see success in the sport and went on to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She also become a multiple-time American record holder and American Open champion. Over her career, she experienced USADA education and testing, both of which she welcomed to ensure that she was aware of the rules and achieving her many accomplishments as a clean athlete.

Now, Gump is working to ensure a level playing field for the next generation of athletes by serving as an Anti-Doping Education Athlete Presenter for USADA. She will host education sessions with a wide range of athletes to help them understand anti-doping rules, the many tools available to them, and the importance of clean sport.

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I initially got involved in the sport of Olympic-style weightlifting when I was in around 6th grade. My P.E. teacher was also the weightlifting coach at the middle school that I went to and he kind of pursued me, and was like, “Hey, you’re athletic, you’re fast, I see you in P.E. class doing things.” And I was like, “O.K., I’ll go check this thing out.” I trained for two months and qualified for my first national meet. And then two months after that, I competed and I placed second at the Junior Nationals. The next year I move onto high school, and I kept going back to the middle school to train and I was the only one that was part of that group of girls that continued my training. And I still have contact with most of them and I think they have all said to me, “I can’t believe you went to the Olympics for that. It was just a fun after school program and you took it to the next level.” I never went into it thinking, I want to be an Olympian. Women’s weightlifting wasn’t even an Olympic sport at that time. It was just something fun to do and, honestly, my parents thought it was just a phase. But it has truly shaped my entire life, my education, my profession, everything. It’s been my entire world because of that P.E. teacher recognizing that ability and talent in me as a young 6th grader.

Coming from a sport that, unfortunately, internationally, has a reputation for doping, it gets me fired up. It really does. I know that I have competed as a clean athlete against athletes who were not clean. But it gives me a satisfaction in knowing I was clean and I still lifted more than you did and you were on drugs. I have a clear, clean conscious. Fifteen years even after the last lift that I made, of knowing I had a career as a clean athlete.

One of my favorite things to tell athletes is, yes, I am older, I am retired from sport, however, I have been in your shoes as an athlete. I have sat and listened to many, many USADA presentations, and that education is still engrained in my head. But it’s also one of my favorite things to tell them is in 2005 and 2006, USA Today reported that I was the most drug-tested athlete in the United States, more than Lance Armstrong. So, using my personal experience as an athlete, I can speak to it. I’ve been in your seat, yes I’m retired, yes I’m a mom now, but I get it, I’ve been there, and I tell them, “If a DCO walked in the room today, I would do the exact same thing.” I’d show them my I.D., I’d get my cup, and I would go do it again. That’s what I was used to and I always had the utmost respect for USADA because they were ensuring that there was a clean playing field.