Campus Life

Policing the Games

Olympic athletes are on a constant quest to achieve higher, faster, stronger results. University of Lethbridge alumnus Tim Takahashi (BA '94) helps to make sure they do so fairly.

Takahashi, a U of L kinesiology sessional intructor and clinic director of Dynamic Rehab, will serve as a doping control officer at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics this month. He is one of 200 persons working under the auspices of VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) charged with policing the games. While Takahashi is passionate about his role of rooting out those who try and use performance-enhancing drugs to gain a competitive edge, he admits that enforcement isn't the ideal way to rid sport of cheaters.

"I believe that policing and enforcement of the anti-doping policy is not the way to stop them," says Takahashi. "We understand that there's no possible way we can catch everyone. Really, our attitude is we're letting people know we're here, there's a functioning program, there are checks and if you're caught, there are consequences. I think the real answer is education – it's educating the athletes."

Takahashi initially held the dream of making it to the Olympic Games through his work as an athletic therapist. After graduating from the U of L he completed a master's degree at the University of Calgary and, following a year of work, opened the first of three Dynamic Rehab clinics.

The road to working an Olympics is long and heavily populated with therapists who boast years of seniority. Takahashi looked at another route and felt he had something to offer as a doping control officer.

"I saw a lot of doping first-hand as a graduate student in the mid-90s, and I remember thinking then that I did not want to be a part of that," he says. "I'm a strong believer in doping-free sport and not just the fact that it's dangerous or could hurt the athlete, there's an ethical and moral side to sport. It reflects on our attitudes toward sport and society."

It's a lesson he tries to impart on his children.

"I've got four kids and they see what I'm involved in, and I try and show them the right way to be involved in sport. We all want to excel in athletics, but there's a way to do it in a safe and ethical way."

Takahashi's selection to participate in the Vancouver Games comes from his involvement with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES). He applied over five years ago to work with CCES and spent the better part of two years advancing through the selection and training process before he was certified. Since then he has worked as a doping control officer for the southern Alberta region, testing athletes from a variety of sports. His work includes both in competition and out of competition testing.

"Our motto is anytime, anywhere," he says.

Takahashi will do everything from contacting an athlete about a test to collecting samples, running initial baseline analysis tests to confirm they are good for lab use, to packing and securing the sample for shipment to WADA facilities. Following exacting protocols comes with the job.

While in Vancouver, Takahashi and the 200-person doping control team is expected to run more than 2,000 tests. Sadly, he expects there will be a number of positive results.

"We're catching just a trickle of what's out there, and unfortunately, I'm seeing more and more positive tests," he says. "In a way, it is discouraging."

Using his experience in class is one way to slowly begin the process of educating a generation about drug use in sport.

"I use a lot of examples from this work already," he says of his Kinesiology 2350 (recognition and care of athletic injuries) class. "It's nice to know things in theory, but when you can tie a real-world example to what you're talking about it really drives the point home.

"This experience is a way to add to my teaching skill set. It's a great opportunity to see world-class, elite athletes at the top of the game trying to do their best; how they get there and what methods they use or don't use."


• Takahashi is in Vancouver from Jan. 31 to Mar. 1 and has just two days off over the 30 days he'll work.

• His work with CCES saw him test athletes at the recently held World Junior Hockey Championships in Saskatoon.

• In addition to running three local clinics (two in Lethbridge, one in Taber), Takahashi also works with athletes at the newly formed Alberta Sport Development Centre. Former U of L athletics manager Travis Grindle is the executive director of the ASDC's Southwest office.

• Takahashi and his wife have four children aged 10, 13, 18 and 20. On leaving them for a month to work at the Olympics, he says, "My wife understands and my kids think it's pretty cool, and I expect it will be an amazing experience."