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Meet Derrick Adkins: Olympic Hurdler and Anti-Doping Education Athlete Presenter

As an athlete competing in track and field in the 90’s, Derrick Adkins was part of a world without an independent national anti-doping agency and many of the innovations that have helped level the playing field in sport over the last 20 years. As a coach, he watched the rules, protocols, and anti-doping agencies evolve to help protect clean athletes and the integrity of sport. Now, he’s joined USADA to help educate the current generation of athletes about the rules that help ensure clean sport and why it matters to compete the right way.

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Wow, I started running competitively when I was seven years old. And during those years, I was definitely not, like, the best. But I wasn’t taking last in races either, I was kind of average. And then, I just stayed with it all the way up through middle school, 9th, 10th, 11th grade. In the 11th grade is when I began winning.

It was when I saw the 1984 Olympics on television and I was 14 years old at the time, and it just sparked something within me. It made me go back to track practice and try a lot harder than I was previously. And I decided that’s what I really wanted to go for. And the second turning point was when I was 21, third year in college, where I started to think, wait, I think I can run with these pros. And I just grinded and worked hard, and then it happened.

Now some athletes will disagree with this, I was telling myself, if I lose, it’s going to be O.K. The sun’s going to come up the next morning. Other athletes may say something like, “No! Never say if you lose. Just be determined to win.” But it relieved anxiety, me saying, “If I lose, I lose. These guys I’m running against are fast.”

When I was at Georgia Tech, and then for the years that I ran pro, I had a training group, guys I trained with, a few other professional athletes. This was around the mid-90’s, the rumors were just flying around the whole sport worldwide about certain athletes that were suspected of being on performance-enhancing drugs. So, it was very frustrating, it was very frustrating for us. We couldn’t prove anything, but years later, certain athletes were busted, they tested positive.

One athlete, I don’t want to say his name, because I hope that he’s a great guy now, but I lost some big races to this particular athlete in ’97 and ’98. And when he beat me in ’98, in my hometown, Uniondale, Long Island, New York, he was busted for steroids, like full blown steroids, three days later. He almost broke the world record. So, it’s very frustrating, very frustrating.

I think that due to USADA and perhaps other organizations, I believe things are cleaner now than they were. When I competed around ’97, ’98, USA Track & Field performed the tests on each athlete. And then the talks started flying about how if an NGB is going to test its own team, they’re not going to be very motivated to expose a dirty test. So, that has evolved. The out-of-competition testing has evolved.

My very last year competing as a professional, is when they began with the out-of-competition testing. And so, they would knock on my door, I never had any problem with it. When you’re clean, you say, here’s my urine. I think that’s a very good development. And like I said, how USA Track & Field used to police the sport of track and field, USADA grew out of that talk that we can’t have NGBs just testing themselves, we need a central organizing agency. So, I’ve been a fan of USADA ever since around 2000 when it started.

The reason why I wanted to join the clean sport movement is because it’s very values based. And I feel like, if we’re going to be athletes or coaches or being a part of being in the sports world, then character and values have to be emphasized. This is something that I could really appreciate and it’s work that I can enjoy, because we’re spreading good information out there to athletes, parents, coaches, and these things need to be discussed.