They chose me! So I guess they think I'm good.
I perceived it prestigiously.
With this exact feeling, I went to anti-doping test after the Home Championship for the Aquatlon, where I ended up fourth on April 16th, 2016. Up to this point, I had mainly been junior triathlon champion of the Czech Republic, I had only one goal in my head - to go to the Olympics.
The decision to travel from Prague to Jablonec nad Nisou for the competition, whereby the result secured me a nomination for the European Championship, changed everything. I didn’t really have the ambition or the condition for it as I’d been lazy the previous month and a half. It started at the after-party after my school’s graduation ball, I jumped off the podium, banged my heel and was on crutches for three weeks. Then I travelled a lot, first with my parents to the sea at Martinique, then to train in Spain with a triathlon representation, then another holiday - skiing in France.
I gave a urine sample without difficulty, I didn’t mind the Commissioner watching me. I was joking with my parents that I’m going to have a pretty good red blood cells level after staying at high altitude.
At the end of May, the laughter soon stopped.
I went with my mum by car, and suddenly my phone beeped, it was an incoming mail from the anti-doping place. I didn’t even want to read it, but what I took as a formality became a total opposite.
I saw everything as some kind of weird joke. I just knew I didn’t do anything.
Result of the message: positive!
Substance: Synthetic erythropoietin!
Verdict: A possible four years ban on activity.
I quickly googled what erythropoietin is supposed to be. EPO. A hormone that the body creates itself and it’s responsible for the production of blood cells. Mainly the persistent ones have been applying its artificially synthetic option for thirty years to increase their performance. No, I really didn’t have a clue at nineteen that it was one of the symbols of sport scams. Nor did I know the name of Jan Chlumský, the Czech Anti-Doping Executive, whose contact was attached in the mail.
I immediately dialled his number expecting him to give me an explanation and mainly advise me how to defend myself. His approach was different. He briefly said that we would meet in two days at the Triathlon Commission, where he would announce how long my suspension would be.
What? But I didn’t take anything and I want to solve what went wrong!
I saw everything as a weird joke until the committee meeting, I really didn’t worry about it much. I just knew I didn’t do anything. Nobody could even push it to me as the EPO is administered intravenously and I haven’t been to the doctor for an injection for several months.
The commission members and Mr. Chlumský were waiting at Strahov at a round table. My parents came with me, from the very beginning they trusted me and stood by me, then witnessed a debate where in the end no one knew what had happened.
Chlumský just said I had a positive test.
Okay, and what am I supposed to do? With a smile that masked disillusionment, I asked him for some documents to see what he meant. That wasn’t possible, Chlumský said that if I want to defend myself, I have to pay 720 EUROS to see the A sample analysis, and the same amount for B Sample test. Subsequently, a re-examination would cost 600 EURO - but in one breath he added not to have hopes high as the result will be the same.
I sat and stared at him with my mouth wide open. Just to find out why I found myself in a situation that I totally don’t understand, I was supposed to pay more than two thousand EUROS, i.e. about fifty thousand Czech crowns - only then there was the opportunity to at least understand the situation a little.
I will openly say that I only had the chance to move forward thanks to my dad. He’s a director in a car air conditioning company and we could afford it. My dad was willing to start spending money to show at any price where the truth was.
Yeah, the truth... What exactly is it? And does it matter? After what I have experienced, I very much doubt it.
I swear. I wasn’t doping, but I know what you might think. That's what every athlete says when they’ve had a positive test.
1.5 kilometres swimming - 40 kilometres cycling- 10 kilometres running.
The distance of a standard Olympic triathlon, a race which I have never participated in.
As a junior I completed only half the course in the so-called sprint, where I won the title of Champion of the Czech Republic, besides that I also won also one Czech Cup in the company of adults. At the point where I could finally compete with guys, the suspension came.
My whole career, if I can call it that, I have sinned due to my talent and the luxurious conditions that my family created for me. A great background and a mode where everything was subordinated to me.
I was travelling with my parents on fantastic holidays to destinations such as the above-mentioned Martinique or Sri Lanka. Everywhere I could train and enjoy myself. I had the best possible equipment, the latest wet suit, a bike for two hundred thousand crowns. Also university, at the Economic Faculty at the Czech University of Agriculture, which I mainly chose so I could tailor my timetable according to preparation.
I loved sport, I spent six hours a day doing sport. In a week I was able to have fairly decent volumes, fifteen kilometres in the water, ninety running, three hundred cycling. At the same time, I wasn’t doing it at one hundred percent. I didn’t take nutritional supplements, I didn’t stretch, I didn’t go to the gym at all really, and I wasn’t set to be an absolute hard-worker in my head.
Today, I know I wouldn’t get to the Olympics with this approach, but I also know that I had dozens of ways of improving in a natural way.
Even the people I trained with, knew this about me. That's why it wasn’t just me, who couldn’t see sense in a positive test at all.
But the verdict by Chlumský et al. was also confirmed by the B sample analysis, held in Dresden, in the Kreisch part - in the WADA World Anti-Doping Organisation's accredited centre, because the laboratory was closed down in Prague years ago. It didn’t meet the requirements.
I watched it personally. Mum, who works at the third faculty of medicine, sent a colleague there with me who was familiar with the issue. From the beginning I had the disappointment that nobody explained anything to me. The Commissioners just made a short presentation describing how the test is being conducted. Then they opened the sample and sent us home, after a week they wrote that the result was the same as the A sample.
Specifically, my sample wasn’t typically negative. No, I wasn’t positive, but they decided that I took EPO.
Dad, who was really getting angry about it, turned to Jan Šťovíček's law office. A sports attorney who represented cyclist Roman Kreuziger in the well-known doping case with a biological passport.
At that point, there was no other way. As an athlete I was completely alone. The Triathlon officially backed away from me. Nobody wanted to deal with the situation. Representative Coach Jan Řehula told me on the phone that it’s huge. I expected him to be more interested, but he didn’t want to hear it, I haven’t seen him since. Similarly, the association’s management was set up. The association’s boss flatly refused to help me, although they believed me. After each committee meeting, Chlumský waited until I left the room. He was obviously explaining to others how to proceed.
In the end, I was told that if the association doesn’t respect the laboratory’s findings and oppose the anti-doping, the other triathlon representatives are threatened with a ban at international races where WADA rules have to be honoured.
It was simply bizarre, like a scene from an absurd Franz Kafka drama.
Anti-doping is armed by a wall of silence. No one knows how the people who cover it work.
From the beginning I felt that there were two worlds. The one where I am, the one who is portrayed as a cheat, and must publicly defend himself, although he doesn’t know what he’s against. And the other world, where anti-doping works armed with walls of silence. No one knows how the people who cover it work.
WADA told us through Chlumský that the case information isn’t public.
Dad argued with him, but when he found out it was useless, we proceeded differently. Lawyers advised me to create a website where I can report on the whole case and publish my defence, where independent testimonies ultimately became its base.
I was surprised by the fact that all the experts who looked at the documents purchased from WADA defended me. In addition, they did it free of charge.
As the first, Professor of Chemistry, Šárka Pospíšilová from the Centre of Molecular Biology and Gene Therapy in Brno defended me. Other experts, including Libor Vítek from the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports, who is perhaps the largest capacity in the field, joined her. In addition, he’s a big opponent of the supportive substances.
They weren’t just angry about the outcome but also about the inconclusive manner of the testing. The documentation lacked a number of important things, such as sample handling and storage. Frankly, my urine was put into a food cooling-box and then into a standard fridge. It could have been devalued anywhere because it’s prone to changes in heat and humidity. The reports also highlighted the possibility of urine contamination with body salts from sweat.
Mr. Vítek said that the papers that were supposed to convince me of fraud wouldn’t be sufficient for his students to pass the course. It was unprofessional and shoddy.
Chlumský wondered why we were thinking of these things at all. He had a single argument – which is the findings of WADA's accredited laboratory, so there was no way of escaping punishment. And if some scientists say otherwise, it’s ethically non-collegial of them. In the B sample documentation, we even found a copy of his mail, where he was complaining to a colleague in Dresden that my father has fighting spirit and was blabbing nonsense that he retrieved from the Internet.
At least I was lucky not to be the first to have a similar problem. Professor Pospíšilová sent us the professional Lab Times magazine, where a group of Norwegian scientists who have long drawn attention to world anti-doping mistakes also described the same case regarding Irish sprinter Steven Colvert.
All we had to do was to get in touch with them and they threw themselves into my case. They were really excited because I confirmed their theory that it doesn’t matter what you have in the body but who is testing you.
They showed me that if a collected sample is put on a paper, a curve is drawn, which is then compared with the positive and negative test pattern. Mine was always agreed with the negative one much more, there was only a small deviation that was sufficient enough for the lab to decide. However, according to any expert who presented their findings publicly, this didn’t show the synthetic, i.e. artificially delivered EPO. Minor fluctuation could have also been caused by injury, illness or travel.
However, at the Disciplinary Commission no opinion passed and I received a four-year sentence.
It didn’t end for us. Dad asked Professor Reichl from the WADA lab in Vienna, who devised the entire EPO assessment method to explain what finds a positive sample. The answer no longer surprised us, apparently the organisation’s code of ethics prevented communication.
The last indication that showed me what I was up against was the finding that the German cross-country champion ended up similar to me. He had defended himself in vain for two years, but then he found out that WADA never consumes the whole sample.
His sample was tested in Cologne and eventually he received permission for the rest of the urine to be examined by another accredited laboratory in Tokyo where they use a slightly different method. The Japanese said the sample was negative, but the German anti-doping committee didn’t recognise the result and said the analysis in Tokyo wasn’t as accurate.
They themselves had doubts and internal contradictions, but they automatically preferred a positive test.
We contacted Professor Perikles Simon, who dealt with the case at Mainz University. In turn, he informed us that in his eyes my sample was 99.9 percent negative. At the same time, he contacted his friend from the management of WADA, who agreed with him, but with one breath he added that if their lab says something else, we won’t stand a chance of defending ourselves.
This made the anti-doping convicted that they only care about one thing. Catching as many athletes as possible, to state that they follow morals and ethical codes, and can talk about the purity of sport, so that they can influence people's lives without responsibility.
I think the Inquisition in the Middle Ages worked in this way.
As an athlete I found myself in an absurd battle, but simultaneously I discovered that I was someone else - a nineteen-year-old university student who suddenly had a lot of free time.
To be honest, I quite enjoyed that for the first six months. I kept telling myself that things would be sorted out sooner or later, and I would jump back into training. None of what happened to me meant punishment for me but more like a holiday.
Without first realising it, day by day, I have been changing.
In the past, high ambitions and demands for myself and for everyone around me subscribed me, a free day in my presentation meant I had two training sessions. But the sport that kept me in a regime where I couldn’t do silly things suddenly disappeared and there was no substitute for it. From the maximum, I fell straight into lethargy, and after celebrating reaching twenty, I felt like an unnecessary existence without goals. I hung around and didn’t even try to look like it was different. I set the alarm-clock for ten, went to a few compulsory lectures at school and waited for the evening to go to the pub. After a while, it became a standard that replaced sports training.
I became exactly what I had scorned so much before. You know, triathlon is a terrible prestige, where people give their condition to be admired as well as background and results. We don’t have a good reputation among other athletes.
I also took racing as a thing I paid my parents for everything they gave me. I felt that my peers admired me, and I was looking at them from above, because I thought they had life with no sense.
Suddenly I had the impression that I didn’t even reach their ankles. Sometimes I just lay all day at home thinking what life is all about. The worst thing was that nothing came to me. Due to my doping case, my good friend and sparring partner stopped triathlon. He had no motivation, he didn’t manage it all himself, and he was also trying to find himself, so when we met-up, we were like two wrecks who didn’t know what to do with themselves.
Depression fell on me and at the same time I began to realise other values. I found out that we athletes are often dimwits who are going through a tunnel, where everything is subject to performance. The more I watched my rivals putting smiling photos from exotic training or photos of their beautiful equipment, the more I became allergic to the triathlon.
What I loved so much, suddenly seemed totally stupid. I was ashamed of myself because I realised I was a superficial materialist.
Another spirit that thinks more deeply has woken in me. I began to base myself on Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, or John Lennon's music, because it has a wonderful subtext that can get me away from everything. As well as David Fincher's films and documentaries on well-known artists, such as Bob Dylan or Curt Cobain. I spent the time that I used to spend with training, with them.
Previously, I condemned people who were going to parties, drink and took drugs.
I don’t do that today, because at one point I was one of them, and I can understand that even in this form one can come to the sense of life. I found out that all the famous artists had gone through total bottom, they were in deep shit or had nothing at all. Down there, they recognised themselves and began to think differently.
Relatively quickly I came to the fact that I won’t go back to the triathlon anyway, however my case will finish. Physically I would be fine but my head stopped seeing sense in it. Why train every day for six hours and destroy yourself? I would probably end up like most of the representatives who finish their career at the most productive age and all that remains is high debts and unfulfilled ambitions.
I began to hate the fact that I was interested for so long in nothing but the physical world.
Everything was okay with me but everything else was pissing me off. Now I am laughing at it, but at that time I thought about ending it all. I enjoyed that thought for a moment.
Besides, what bothered me a lot was that I disappointed my parents. We are a fine family, I have two older sisters and we never said that our parents were pushing us into something, at the same time they always sacrificed themselves for us and were willing to do everything to make us happy. Before they could’ve been proud of me because I was heading somewhere and I was standing out. Suddenly they asked me why I did nothing. That's when I felt more profoundly that I was falling into total grey.
Mum really felt for me, she even started smoking, I think it was really hard for her and Dad.
Unfortunately, no matter what was going on, I didn’t get the taste back for top level sport again.
Every time I thought about my doping case, I remembered the same thing.
It’s a symbol for me that sport operates like shit.
As my case took ages, I discovered what type of person he was and I formed a strong opinion of him. He never behaved at the same level with me. At first he quite arrogantly totally neglected me at the first opportunity, and then, when it turned out that my case was strange, he renounced his responsibility. Any argument we presented to him was swept away from the table. He claimed he was only a postman in the whole issue who only carries the samples to laboratories and interprets WADA opinions.
He defended himself that he has no competences.
In my eyes, he's an alibistic transfer of pee. In addition, he obviously does his dream job and gets up every day in hope of catching someone. When he does, he feels a sense of satisfaction. For him, every athlete is a potential cheat, which is nonsense in its principle. I don’t see how this man who only goes out to destroy someone, can sit in this position.
He’s not concerned with details or the justice of cases at all.
I've heard a lot of stories about him, he runs an open war with many athletes. The bodybuilders allegedly put him in a wardrobe during a test, then they peed on him first and then locked him in.
I know it looks like I'm throwing dirt on him and other inspectors, but I'm rather pointing to the perversion and the ferocity of the system. By the way, my uncle Jirka Vojtík, an excellent former sprinter and Olympian, recognised it too. He has had a lot of experiences on the edge of comedy and tragedy. Once, after races in Ostrava, the commissioner called him that he forgot his backpack with samples at the stadium. He asked Jirka to find it and bring it to Prague, because the anti-doping office is located in the Olympus area where my uncle used to train.
The pieces that confirmed my beliefs about WADA and Chlumský et al., were getting bigger.
Just the fact that most laboratories act as private companies whereby testing samples is purely business, is at least strange. The roofing organisation pays them and assigns each office the quality index. Dresden had a low rating in 2015, but after my case suddenly they climbed up the ladder.
This finding completely overturned my view of top sport.
It seemed to me that when all professionals have to submit to something as crazy as WADA, whose performers are like Mr. Chlumský, it can’t really work.
Still, I decided to appeal against the Czech Olympic Committee’s punishment. I wanted to be able to say everything to an authority and to my joy, thing finally began to be dealt with in some context. Because of the Arbitration Commission, even Norwegian scientists came to Prague, at their own expense, to help with my defence. My parents invited them to the Phantom of the Opera musical, where my sister sings the lead role, but they refused it so that no one could accuse them of taking sides.
I no longer really cared if they finally identified me as a fraudster or not.
Instead, they wrote a fifteen-page detailed report explaining that my case was pointless, that it was simply not possible to be positive. And if anyone sees it differently, their lifetime work is totally wrong.
The Czech Olympic Committee was surprisingly done with everything quickly. A team of people were led by a funded lawyer and they all stood up for me. Based on expert opinions and the weak or zero arguments of the counterparty, they said that I didn’t do anything wrong. In July 2017, they invited me to a hearing, where they told me in the presence of Mr Chlumský that the punishment was cancelled. An anti-doping executive lawyer said that despite the decision, he couldn’t say anything but that he stands by the WADA's decision on the positive sample.
Chlumský stood up and shook my hand.
He adhered to what he promised at one of the first meetings. When we told him with my parents that we would do everything to show who is right, he ironically replied that if I get out of it, he congratulates us.
I didn’t care that it happened. In fact, I was rather sorry for everything and pissed off at everybody around, because it was supposed to end all and disappear as if nothing happened.
I was also bothered because of my dad, he put lots of money into my defence during the year and half, almost half a million Czech crowns. He sacrificed time and resources to my case, and none of that was going to return to him. The counterparty didn’t pay anything to him. The Anti-doping office, who was to blame for everything all the time, wasn’t responsible for anything in the end. Officially, it was a dispute between Vojtěch Sommer and the Triathlon Association. In order to avoid further delays and appeals, my dad didn’t insist on financial compensation. He didn’t care more about the money, he cared more about me having a clean slate.
Nothing happened for a while, and then the lawyers called us that in my case WADA appealed for sports arbitration in Lausanne. I was pleased at first because it meant I finally got the chance to meet people who are in charge of the whole system.
I didn’t really care if I was identified as a fraudster or not. I didn’t want to go back to the triathlon anyway, all I wanted was to tell them face-to-face how WADA could destroy people.
But it turned out differently. Lawyers told us exactly what arbitration means.
First, a financial massacre, not hundreds of thousands but millions Czech crowns. Secondly, minimal hope. The attorney representing WADA at that time had a 97 percent success rate.
Mr. Šťovíček indicated to us indirectly to propose an agreement to the anti-doping office. In that agreement, we demanded my punishment to terminate before the arbitration, i.e. after two years and three months. At the same time, I signed that although I take note that I’m not officially exonerated, but at the same time that I didn’t do anything wrong. WADA's response to the conditions came in return.
Under the agreement, they had to delete me from all the databases where I was marked as positive. On the contrary, I wasn’t allowed to speak publicly about the situation. But it turned out that the agreement is nonsensical because there are no sanctions in it. This text violates it and at the same time I show that anti-doping does not even know what it’s doing in this respect. Okay, they can forbid me to do sport at official events, but honestly, I don’t care.
I care about making it clear what WADA is much more and especially what the people in it are capable of. It’s powerful and incompetent.
I know that professional athletes are doping in large numbers and I don’t intend to condemn them.
When someone resorts to it, I don’t take their actions as a crime. I see it as a decision to that the individual came to be part of a system where concepts like truth don’t really matter.
I knew almost nothing about doping before my case, and I was quite strongly against it. As soon as it was reported that someone was caught, I condemned all of them irrespective of their arguments and thought: "Hey, say what you want but they did find something there...”I personally didn’t come across the forbidden stuff, no one offered it to me, no one spoke of it. Before my affair opened my eyes, I believed that the sport after the scandals of athlete Marion Jones, cyclist Lance Armstrong and the Russians at the Sochi Olympics cleared.
My case has led me out of the mistake.
"Culture" is still the same, only the conditions under which it’s done have changed.
Now I am very distrustful and interested in conspiracy. As soon as I see a report that someone was positive, I don’t take it as a fact unless the person admits. I always have doubts, because there is a possibility that everything is different to what is foisted to us.
When I see how many athletes - including Czechs - applauds WADA for forbidding the participation of Russians in international events, including the Olympics, it annoys me. It was all because WADA-accredited laboratory didn’t work... Furthermore, it isn’t possible to affect all of them in principle without any difference. Even if there is only one athlete who is clean, it's not fair.
In addition, I am convinced that the people who choose to cheat, overcome the system. So when someone says that only fools take the stuff, I definitely disagree. The ones who dope are the ones who are willing to risk their own health and possible public disgrace for their victory and money when they’re caught.
WADA can’t do anything about it. Apparently only one-in-ten people who violate the rules is caught in their network. It’s enough for them to survive, and so much money rotates in sport that they parasite it comfortably.
I am talking about my experience to point out that the current form of anti-doping is inoperative. As long as WADA is not cancelled or fundamentally reformed, as many people as possible should draw attention to how badly it works. It’s terrible that they don’t catch those who really take doping, but for no reason they finish a career for someone as insignificant as me.
The affair took my illusions and some purposefulness. My parents lost a lot of money, which will bother me for a long time. I can look for positives too, I can say that I had to grow up faster and start looking at the world with no superficial flaps on my eyes.
But it's still too early to smile. Mainly because it was all totally unnecessary.