Anthony Ervin, Aaron Peirsol Both in USADA Drug-Testing Pool

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 1

September 15th, 2011 National

Today, I was playing on the USADA (the United States Anti-Doping Agency) website, and came across a lot of interesting information relating to swimmers and drug testing. From the results, you can glean a lot of factoids. Some are simply “interesting,” while some might be beacons of huge future news in the swimming community.

Peirsol Not Officially Retired from USADA – The most interesting piece is that all-time great backstroker Aaron Peirsol, who announced his retirement in early February, is still in the USADA drug-testing pool. He has already been tested twice this year by USADA, including as recently as the second quarter (ending June 30th, which is the most recent data available). Most athletes, when they really have their minds made up to retire, immediately seek to leave the drug-testing pool, because for international-level athletes like Peirsol, it requires him to provide a 60-minute period every day in which he be available to testers. Might this mean that the door isn’t entirely shut on his return?

This one, I probably wouldn’t read too much into, based on Dave Salo’s Tweet yesterday that “Aaron is not coming out of retirement” after they had lunch together in Los Angeles. Still, it’s a glimmer of hope from a swimmer who remains one of the country’s most popular swimmers even after retirement.

The USADA has slightly different rules regarding retirement and return, namely that prior to participating in the Olympics, an athlete has to be in their testing pool for 12-months, where as FINA only requires 9-months prior to any competition (and no extended time for the Olympics). It’s not clear yet if he’s still in the FINA drug testing pool, as he wasn’t tested in the first quarter by FINA, which is the most recent quarter that they have released data for. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he has officially retired with FINA, though, because there were several other athletes who were not tested during that same 1st quarter, including Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps. American athletes looking to return from retirement prior to the US Olympic Trials have just over a week to officially notify FINA.

Primary Targets – Just because Franklin and Phelps weren’t tested in the first 6-months of the year by FINA, don’t think that they haven’t been tested. You always hear that the top athletes will be drug tested more frequently, but here’s the evidence: In the first 6-months of 2011, Phelps was tested 9 times by the USADA, which is three more than any other swimmer this year. (Track and Field athlete Carmelita Jeter has the most tests overall, with 13). Franklin has been tested 5 times, and even that rate will surely increase with her sky-rocketing performances up the World Rankings.

In total, 124 different swimmers have been tested 276 times this year by the USADA. Note that swimmers who train in the US and compete in USA Swimming events are subject to the USADA drug-testing, so not all of the 124 swimmers are Americans. But the tests are pretty far-reaching, going beyond even just the National Teamer

The following athletes were tested 5 or more times in the first two quarters of 2012:

Michael F Phelps 9
Elizabeth Beisel 6
Andrew Gemmell 6
Jessica A Hardy 6
Ryan S Lochte 6
Melissa Franklin 5
Mark D Gangloff 5
Kathleen Hersey 5
Kathryn E Hoff 5
Eric L Shanteau 5
Nicholas Thoman 5

Phelps also leads swimming with the most tests in the 10-year history of the USADA, with 230. The only athlete across all sports who has been tested more times by the USADA is weightlifter Cheryl Haworth, with 238 tests. 9 American swimmers are in the “century club,” meaning that they’ve been tested by the USADA at least 100 times in their careers. This is a huge honor, because as you can see, this list is a who’s-who of American swimmers over the last decade, and every swimmer but two on the list has at least one Olympic gold medal, except for Ziegler and Hoff, who have made up for it with a combined 11 long course World Championships. Eric Shanteau and Amanda Weird, with 98 tests each, are likely to join the group by the year’s end.

Michael F Phelps   230
Natalie Coughlin   154
Ryan S Lochte   154
Kathryn E Hoff   142
Peter W Vanderkaay   110
Aaron W Peirsol   106
Dana W Vollmer   106
Mark D Gangloff   100
Kate M Ziegler   100

Anthony Ervin – Back in the Drug-Testing Pool! – Could former sprint-star Anthony Ervin be considering a comeback of his own? Ervin hadn’t been tested by the ADA since the 1st quarter of 2007, which happens to be the same year that there’s any record of him competing (at Short Course Yards Masters Nationals). He still had some chops back then, including breaking off a 19.98 50 freestyle.

But then, all-of-a-sudden, Ervin was drug tested again in the first quarter of 2011. What does this mean? Maybe nothing. Any swimmer who is even considering a return (or even considering thinking about a return) is wise to re-enter the testing pool as soon as possible, just in case. Ervin, who was the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 50 free, retired officially in 2003 when he was only 22, and when he sees that most present-day sprinters aren’t even hitting their primes until 22, it might make him wonder what kind of speed he may have left in the pool. At only 30, and with the definition of “old” in swimming being rapidly redefined, maybe a comeback is in his future.

This one seems more significant than Peirsol’s, given that Ervin left the pool for three years and has now returned. Interestingly, last time he was in the pool was the year before the 2008 Olympics

The Mission – When you read the USADA’s mission statement regarding testing, they really hit the nail on the head, so to speak. While you’ll often see swimmers joke via social networking (Twitter, Facebook) that “I thought the USADA had forgotten about me” or that “the USADA would come at 6AM on my day off of morning practice!”, I think they all would whole-heartedly agree with the below statement. These tests are used to protect the clean athletes, and for this we should thank the USADA and WADA drug-testers.

Often regarded as the gold standard in the athletic anti-doping movement, USADA has instituted a highly effective program in accordance with the World Anti-Doping  Code and the International Standard for Testing (IST) to protect clean athletes and ensure their rights to compete on a fair and level playing field, free from the pressures of performance enhancing drugs.


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I remember Anthony Ervin going 20 low at one of the Cal dual meets last year, although he looked remarkably thin (as in lack of muscle) if he was doing any serious training.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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