February 27, 2014
Christian Hesch, an athlete currently serving an 18-month ban from USADA for committing an anti-doping rule violation involving EPO, attempted to placate his own “warped sense of humor” by briefly serving as a volunteer escorting athletes to drug testing at the 2014 USA Indoor Championships before having his credential revoked by USATF Director of Events Jim Estes.
Hesch says before the championships he received a blanket email from an organization requesting meet volunteers. “I don’t know if you can say it’s not through USATF. It’s not through USADA,” he says, not mentioning a specific individual’s name or organization for fear of getting the man in trouble with his employers.
“[For volunteer positions] if people reply” to the email, they pretty much are accepted, Hesch said. He indicated that the process that landed him as a USADA chaperone role is the same for all other volunteer positions. He said his position has nothing to do with his paramedic training, and that it was a simply case of USATF volunteers “taking care of” their duty to find enough bodies.
As a chaperone, Hesch says he was in an official capacity with a general credential for about an hour or two on Friday during the women’s pentathlon. It ended when a USATF employee, whom he would not name but is now known to be USATF Director of Events Jim Estes, revoked his credential.
Hesch says he only had time to escort one athlete to doping control as the women’s pentathlon was the only event final on Friday night. USATF in a statement to LetsRun.com said Hesch never actually escorted an athlete to doping control:
“Friday at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships USATF staff recognized an individual as Christian Hesch. Upon seeing that he was attempting to serve as a notifying chaperone for drug testing, USATF staff immediately notified the USADA doping control officer on-site who revoked Mr. Hesch’s credential. The discovery was made prior to athletes submitting to drug testing and Mr. Hesch did not have involvement in chaperoning athletes to doping control.”
When asked about the USATF statement, Hesch didn’t back down.
“That’s a good CYA (cover your ass) statement,” said Hesch. “I told you what I did.”
“If they want to parse words, it really doesn’t make any difference to me. She had not officially signed in, she was five or ten yards from the table – parse that how you want. Maybe that covers USATF’s ass – I don’t really care,” said Hesch who said he was supervising the second or third place finisher in the women’s pentathlon (he thought second) after she finished the competition and added that “more than a few people saw” him walking an athlete over to doping control.
“Depending on how you read (that statement), I guess it’s technically correct. In a way, none of the chaperone’s have any control over the doping control process. We just herd the athlete from the track to the curtain for doping control. We basically walk them 150 yards – that’s it. So depending on how you parse it, the chaperone doesn’t have anything to do with an athlete (and doping). The athlete signs in with the (volunteer) chaperone but that’s not the official sign in – that’s when you get to the (doping control) desk – then you can’t leave. When you are with the chaperone, you can do whatever want. I’ve had chaperones go out for a jog with me post-race. So depending on how you want to play the word game, then yeah the athlete hadn’t checked in – no one checks in until they hit the desk.”
It’s important to note that even if Hesch did escort an athlete to doping control that the test would be done after Hesch hands athletes off–he simply takes them from the track to doping control.
That doesn’t mean the volunteer chaperone’s role is meaningless. When he was an athlete, LetsRun.com co-founder Weldon Johnson at the 2001 NYC Marathon saw a man hand what he believed to be a bag of urine to a female athlete as she went into a portable toilet before later going to doping control, taking advantage of the fact that the volunteer was a teenage girl.
According to Hesch, Estes told the volunteer coordinator about Hesch’s sanction, and the volunteer coordinator approached Hesch, saying Hesch couldn’t be in that particular position. Hesch’s credential was then revoked by Estes.
“I guess not everyone’s going to know who I am,” Hesch says. “I think [he] figured it out himself, because I’ve got a credential hanging off my neck.”
Hesch refused to tell LetsRun.com it was Estes who stopped him. He simply said it was someone who was “very familiar with distances,” i.e. long distance running. When reached by LetsRun.com, Estes confirmed he revoked Hesch’s credential. LetsRun.com then asked for an official statement from USATF.
After having his credential revoked, Hesch says he watched the rest of the day’s events as a spectator.
Hesch repeatedly said he wanted to leave names out because he didn’t want heads to roll because of his gag. He also said he “didn’t do it on Saturday or Sunday” because “it would have been a little blatant on those days.”
“I think for most people the reaction would be (to think), ‘Oh that’s a douchey move,’ and it probably is, but it was for my own entertainment,” said Hesch. “I didn’t do this to poke fun at USATF or to make them look bad. It was for my own chuckle and I got a little amusement out of it. If someone wants to make a big deal out of it, feel free,” said Hesch. “The thing is – if people say, ‘Oh they should have known,’ well what are you going to do? put every single volunteer through a background check?”
Quick Take #1 by Jon Gugala: When talking to me, Hesch said he did this because of a “warped sense of humor” and “for personal amusement” and as “basically something for me and some buddies to get some chuckles out of” and “something which would make myself chuckle” which is deplorable. Hesch should be villainized accordingly, disgracing the sport through his doping and then attempting to bring further discredit upon it by seeking a role as a drug-testing chaperone.
Hesch’s deserves most of the scorn here but the story raises the question as to why USATF doesn’t have stopgaps in place to prevent sanctioned dopers coming into contact with athletes on their way to drug testing during a national championship. And it further raises questions of incompetence in the sport’s governing body.
Quick Take #2 by LetsRun.com: We’re glad USATF caught Hesch and don’t have much criticism for USATF.
The fact of the matter is all major running events only exist thanks to the hard-work of many volunteers. USATF New Mexico is comprised of all volunteers, vice president Angie Jepsen said when contacted for comment (she refused to name the volunteer coordinator, but said the person is a member of USATFNM but not on its board of directors, and she would reach out to the individual for comment).
No major harm no huge foul, but hopefully this is a crucial reminder, that more needs to be done to screen the drug testing volunteers as they do play a critical role.
Quick Take #3 by LRC: It’s worth noting that Hesch claimed that part of the reason he did it was because agent Mark Block, who is in the midst of a 10-year doping ban, was allowed into the Nike VIP tent at the 2012 US Olympic Trials.
“It is kind of ironic with the whole (Mark) Block thing. It makes me wonder if that’s where it (me being revoked) partially comes from. The USATF guy said, ‘We have a policy of not credentialing on a current suspension or current sanction.’ I tried not to laugh and give them the benefit of the doubt, but I was thinking, ‘Well, ok, maybe that’s because of Block,’ but I thought, ‘Hmm. Ok, wasn’t it just a year or two ago (that Mark Block was let into the VIP of tent of Nike at the US Olympic Trials)? That might have been a good policy to have then.’ That’s really half the reason why I did it. I figured if Block’s cool with being credentialed and a VIP and stuff (at the 2012 Trials) then they won’t bitch too much about me being a volunteer,” Hesch said. Then he laughed.
Hesch doesn’t get it. Attending the event in Nike’s VIP tent, is very different from serving in an official anti-doping capacity. Hesch makes a mockery of the whole anti-doping process if he thinks it’s a good idea to serve in any anti-doping capacity.