by Mike Petri
It’s been nearly five and half months since my last game for the USA when we faced Italy down Nelson, New Zealand. Although there’s a lull in our games and many of the domestic players have been getting some rest since then, there has been no rest in monitoring us as players as far as drug-testing is concerned. After a long day at work and late night of practice with the NYAC, I received a phone call on my way home around 10:00PM informing me that a representative from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was at my home waiting for my arrival.
It was the first time I have been tested out of competition. Usually I am selected for these random tests sometime during tour or after a match. I figured no one really wanted to come to Brooklyn to pay me a visit! But sure, enough, there was a USADA rep at my door at 10PM looking for me to provide a urine sample to test for performance enhancing supplements and other drugs.
Although it may seem like an inconvenience to some, I was happy that USADA had finally come knocking on my door. I support their mission to ensure fair competition and felt as though their paying a visit to me at home made this mission real and enforced. I respect every athlete that competes clean and relies on old-fashioned hard work, dedication, and desire to train and perform at an elite level. In addition, the USADA rep was friendly and personable, making for a great experience overall.
It’s good to know that rugby is on the radar as far as drug-testing is concerned. Of course, these procedures can often be controversial in that players are occasionally penalized for something that is seemingly harmless. It is unfortunate and I sympathize with those players that have been victims of the system unfairly. I should mention that on more than one occasion, these victims have been friends and teammates of mine. On the other hand, the tests are successful in sometimes catching athletes that are truly cheating and trying to gain an unfair edge over their competition.
On a different note, it has been great getting back into action and kicking off the Super League. So far we’ve enjoyed success at NYAC but there are still a lot of games left to be played and we certainly have some work to do. I am also really excited about the new USA Eagles coaching setup. It is at this point no secret that Coach Tolkin is a longtime coach and mentor of mine and I couldn’t be happier for him to be the head coach. I have no doubt that he will work tirelessly to better the USA Eagles and rugby in general throughout the country. He has chosen an incredible support staff that will collectively lead the team in the right direction preparing for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He’s already set his goal of not only qualifying but of seeing the USA to a first ever quarterfinal berth. Coach Tolkin and his crew are certainly up to the task and it is clear that they genuinely believe this is an attainable goal. As a player, it is encouraging and motivating to be involved with coaches that have confidence in you and set the standards high for excellence. All signs point to a good foundation being set for the build up to this summer’s June test series.
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