Scotland’s hammer thrower Mark Dry had a perfect drug testing record. Now he is serving a 4-year ban for tampering with the anti-doping process that could spell the end of his Olympic dreams, and his career. He missed an at-home test with doping officials, saying he was out fishing when he was actually at his parents’ home.
Like most elite athletes worldwide, Dry, a 2016 Olympian, had filled out a ‘whereabouts form’ giving authorities the details of where he planned to be on any given day so they could show up for a random drugs test. Random, or ‘no-notice’, testing is considered one of the strongest deterrents to illicit drug use in the elite-sports world. Without it, authorities would largely be limited to testing athletes at major events where it would be expected.
Dry’s spotless drug testing record meant he was part of the country’s less-scrutinized ‘national testing pool’. He had even acted as a whistle blower some years back when he saw doping control officers being paid off in a hallway at a major event. “I’m so anti-drugs, it’s unreal”, Dry said. His no-show would count as the first of three strikes that would have to accrue to elevate him into the ‘registered testing pool’. Three whereabouts failures while in the registered pool would equal a missed test, which could bring a ban of up to 2 years.
However, Dry’s seemingly harmless story about fishing has mushroomed into a confounding case that has the 32-year-old athlete facing a 4-year doping ban that could spell the end of his career.
“I don’t really quite understand what’s happening”, Dry said of the legal manoeuvrings that have become a regular part of his daily life. “It’s not a world I’m used to or particularly want to be a part of.”
UKAD investigated further
Something about Dry’s story didn’t add up to the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD). It didn’t help that Dry got his girlfriend to write a letter corroborating his fishing story – a move that made it look more like a conspiracy he insists it wasn’t. After further investigation, UKAD came back to him and asked him where he’d really been that day. Dry came clean and said he actually had been at his parents’ house.
“When I received the email informing me of a missed test I panicked and said I was out fishing”, Dry explained. “I did not want to have a strike against my fully clean record and so opted for what I now know was completely the wrong decision.”
UKAD brought a tampering case against Dry, moving it out of the realm of a slap-on-the-wrist whereabouts failure and into one of an infraction with potential for a minimum 4-year sanction.
In a statement on the agency website, UKAD’s CEO, Nicole Sapstead said: “Deliberately providing false information to UKAD is a serious breach of the rules and undermines the anti-doping process which athletes and the public depend on to have confidence in clean sport.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Dry explained that he was still on painkillers in the wake of a difficult hip surgery that had sidelined him for months.
“Just not in a great place”, Dry said in explaining his drug-altered frame of mind. “And I made a stupid decision that I obviously regret. But even though it was wrong, it wasn’t to evade anyone, or make money, gain an advantage or anything like that.”
These days, Dry is working light construction jobs in an attempt to pay his bills and the attorneys he hired to defend him. Not surprisingly, he is having trouble staying motivated. He says his hip is strong and he was on the verge of throwing 76 meters, which would have put him in range of a spot in the Tokyo Games.
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