Gotta Catch 'Em All

Sept. 18, 2000
Sept. 18, 2000

Table of Contents
Sept. 18, 2000

Summer Olympics [bonus Piece]
Photo Credits: Bob Martin

Gotta Catch 'Em All

Armed with new methods for detecting EPO, Graham Trout and his colleagues at Australia's Sports Drug Testing lab have Olympic cheaters in their crosshairs

Somewhere in the Village this morning lies a young man on a strange bed, trying to quiet his heartbeat. Today is his turn. He's thinking—how can he not?—of the choice he made, the outlandish wager: that he, on this one day, will exit the gates of Sydney's Olympic Village, step before the world and do one thing better than any other man on earth. . . . Knowing that four years of obsession, pain and tedium may have been for nothing, a monstrous joke. Knowing that his rivals may have taken injections or pills that will give him no chance today, even if his talent and sacrifice both were greater than theirs. That his only hope is nine miles from the arena: a bald and bony man he has never met, and never will.

This is an article from the Sept. 18, 2000 issue Original Layout

Trout's eyelids fluttered open. His dream had already vanished; he could never wake up and catch hold of one. But, then, he never really tried. Facts were too important to him, and the fact was this: Today the 2000 Summer Olympics would begin. Today the whole proposition—the trumpets, the doves, the idealism upon which hundreds of millions of dollars hinged. . .hinged on him. Graham Trout. A man who, if you didn't count a few schoolboy matches nearly 40 years ago, had never been to a major sporting event. The right corner of his lips lifted, just barely, for his sense of irony was keen. That, for Trout, was a guffaw.

Then he was in motion, pulling on the pale blue shirt that his shoulders didn't quite fill, the pale gray vest and gray trousers, tucking the eyeglasses and pen into his left shirt pocket. Eating the carefully combined portions of bran, muesli and milk, and hurrying out the door of his modest North Sydney apartment.

His mind hummed with details during the five-minute drive to work. O.K., it was true, the integrity of the Summer Games, the hopes of that young man lying in bed in the Village, didn't hang entirely on Trout. Two other scientists, besides him, would be in charge of the most intensive undertaking in the history of analytical chemistry, compressing tests with a usual two-week turnaround to 24 hours, scrutinizing thousands of urine samples and, for the first time at the Summer Olympics, hundreds of blood samples. They'd be supervising a staff of 75 scientists—more than 50 brought on board temporarily and trained for two months just for this task—and $3.3 million worth of equipment that could sniff out a banned substance at a concentration as infinitesimal as half a nanogram (.0000000005 of a gram) per milliliter.

Suddenly, with one flicker in a window on a computer screen, Trout could become the most important man on the world's largest stage. After all, it was his research team that had done half the work developing the groundbreaking EPO blood test, the specter of which may have contributed to China's abrupt decision last week to drop 27 athletes from its Olympic team. And wasn't the most momentous event of the 1988 Seoul Olympics wrought not on a track or a field or a court but in a drug lab by a Korean chemist bent over a vial of Ben Johnson's urine?

The Sydney Games were opening under a far darker sky than Seoul's, one black nimbus drug headline after another rolling in during the two years leading into the Olympics. A study financed by the White House office of national drug policy reported last week that some Olympic coaches and athletes estimate up to 90% of participants in their sports use performance-enhancing drugs. The study also cited allegations that the International Olympic Committee stymied research on drug testing, and it called for control of drug enforcement to be turned over to an independent agency. Two doctors who served on the U.S. Olympic Committee in the 1980s and '90s—Robert Voy and Wade Exum—have claimed that the committee systematically covered up drug use, allegations that the USOC categorically denies. Still, "doping could destroy the Olympic movement," Frank Marshall of the USOC's drug task force declared last year. "This is the most important issue facing the Olympic movement today."

Even if there's a gold-medal bust in Sydney, no one would be able to pick the 56-year-old Trout from a lineup of encyclopedia salesmen a week later. No one would slap him on the back or raise a glass to toast him—not if the past was any indicator. Not one of the thousands of athletes who desperately wanted to compete cleanly had ever thanked him.

That was how he liked it. Trout was an odd fish. He turned his white Subaru Forester onto a short road and drove to the parking lot at the dead end. The Australian Government Analytical Laboratories building was as hidden, behind its thicket of eucalyptus trees, and as nondescript, with its dirty yellow facade, as Trout's unflickering face. Oh, yes, the U.S., British and Japanese TV crews would eventually find AGAL if Trout's crew nailed a big-timer, just as the Aussie cameramen had when the lab fingered that Indian weightlifter on steroids in the 1990 Commonwealth Games. But they would burn a couple of hours scratching their heads over street maps, and they'd never get past the armed guards at AGAL's door, and as the cameramen climbed onto the roof of the office building on AGAL's right flank—they wouldn't dare try the ammunition depot of the Royal Australian Infantry on AGAL's left—and set up their phalanx of long lenses, the drug testers would simply pull down their window blinds and calibrate on. "We'll talk to no one during the Games," vowed Ray Kazlauskas, the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory director and Trout's boss. That would be as easy as mince pie for Trout. He often passed a quarter hour on a telephone call to his mother without murmuring a dozen words.

Trout entered the building, wondering when he'd ever exit it. In one breath his boss had promised not to grind the lab staff to dust, not to create the crypt of white-coated zombies that Kazlauskas had witnessed in the Atlanta lab at the close of the '96 Olympics. In the next breath, when discussing whether Trout or colieutenant Allen Stenhouse would direct the day shift or night shift, Kazlauskas had admitted, "Day shift, night shift, it'll all just blur."

Trout had resigned himself to a tunnel of 12- and 13-hour days—work, eat, sleep, eat, work—knowing from previous major competitions that adrenaline would be the natural drug that dragged him through the first dozen days. Then it would dry up, and the last three days would be a mumbling, stumbling hell, the marathon that no one ever reported run by the team that no one ever invited to enter the stadium on opening or closing day.

Deep in Trout's bones it felt as if his Olympics had begun seven months ago and would never let him go. That's when he'd started overseeing worldwide trials of his lab's new blood test, cramming the results into a last-minute presentation to the IOC last month, receiving the IOC go-ahead, celebrating with a glass of orange juice and then facing the daunting reality that he had gotten essentially what he had asked for: the additional workload created by more than 300 blood tests of athletes in sports in which EPO—a naturally occurring hormone whose synthetic version athletes use to stimulate production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells—is most used. Most of these tests would be conducted, along with 400 random urine tests, in the two weeks before the Games, to stop cheaters before they even entered an Olympic arena. Then, once competition opened, 2,000 more urine tests would begin.

As the only son in a home behind his father's pharmacy, Trout had grown up watching Dad mix headache remedies and work unholy hours. Trout's classmates considered him a swot, a skinny science-fiction-reading nerd, dismissed from compulsory rugby because his eyeglasses might shatter and assigned to the outfield in cricket because nothing ever happened there. His nickname, Fish, captured his cool-blooded nature and his last name, but it couldn't endure: Trout was not a nickname sort of fellow.

He loved to find out why things happened and then to make them happen again in a manner he could control. He would take the pulp of his father's work—the chemistry—and leave aside its rind, the selling of condoms and ear-wax treatments. He would be a true scientist, a researcher in a Tasmanian paper mill, a lecturer and then, as of a dozen years ago, a drug tester. He looked forward to his work each morning, he told people. He enjoyed it. Did he love it? "No," Trout would say. "Love is too strong a word."

Somewhere in the Village this morning lies a young man on a strange bed, trying to quiet his heartbeat. He is nearly certain that the two weeks that have passed since he discontinued his 50-milligram injections of stanozolol were sufficient to flush it from his system, that no one could possibly detect the steroid in his urine today and trash the biggest moment of his life.

But if he could see Trout right now, sliding his identity badge over sensors to open one sealed door, then repeating it at a second door manned by a second guard, entering a corridor of labs nearly a football field long with that steady, unshakable calm, that long, unhurried stride. . .

If he could see the barren office Trout enters, with its empty walls and the work papers stacked on surfaces everywhere. . .

If he could see the 75 chemists clad in white jackets, safety glasses and latex gloves, the 150 computers lining the lab bench tops, the four high-resolution mass spectrometers (HRMS) worth $500,000 each, the 20 low-resolution mass spectrometers purring along at $65,000 a pop, and the two isotope ratio spectrometers worth another $175 grand per, all just waiting to pounce. . .

If he could see how colorless the lab is, how rampant the whites and pale yellows of the walls and ceilings and floors and refrigerators and filing cabinets and machinery, how futile the attempts at warming up the place here and there with those sports posters, how deadly glaring the fluorescent overhead lights. . .

. . .then he might find swallowing not so simple as before.

No music or pranks were played in the lab. No voices were raised. This was not to suggest that Trout never lost his temper. Certainly he did. Why, he remembered it clearly: the time his box of draughts—similar to checkers—came crashing down on his skull when he opened his wardrobe door, enraging him so much that he smashed them to fragments, which mortified him so much that he fell to his knees and hastily glued them all back together. Four decades ago. Perhaps Trout should be wary. Perhaps he was due.

The color and variety in the lab came mostly from the cheeks and the accents of his coworkers, from the two Malaysians, the Indonesian, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Italian, the Lithuanian, the Syrian and the Bangladeshi who worked with the nine Aussies year-round in the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory, perhaps the most multicultural Olympic site of all. In stadiums all around Sydney the testers' countrymen would be waving colorful flags, blaring music, chanting and roaring. But here in the lab there was no room for purples or passion, not in a place where one mistake, one false positive, could entangle the lab in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit and strip its accreditation as one of 27 worldwide IOC labs, as had happened to the lab in Brisbane 12 years ago.

For all its seriousness, the lab was a quietly relaxed place most days, but today Trout could feel the tension. His country considered itself more hawkish on sports drug usage than any other on earth, likely leading the world on a per-capita basis in the number of out-of-competition tests it had sprung on its athletes. The gauntlet had been flung down by Jackie Kelly, Australia's minister of sport and tourism. "I challenge any athlete to come down here and cheat," she had declared last year. "If I hear there's a positive, I'll be chasing it down every burrow I can, because it means some athlete has walked off with someone else's medal, and that's not on." Trout wouldn't show the strain, not to anyone. But he had never taken on a monster like this.

He scanned his E-mail, through which the IOC labs sent news of new drugs and new tricks to mask their presence. He made sure one last time that the army of chemists knew their tasks and were aware of the howitzer at their heads: the clock. Already a van was pulling up, and an official carrying samples in two green shoulder bags—their zippers sealed with plastic to prove no one had tampered with them—was heading toward the door. The Pisshouse, as some staffers fondly called it, began to hum.

That thick square bottle of lemon-yellow whiz? Is the seal intact? Is the paperwork perfect? Excellent! Now reregister it! That's right, replace the number on it with a new one—our number, not the Olympic organizers', so it's doubly anonymous; we'll have no leaks with these leaks! Into the drill press, bash open that tamper-proof lid. PH-test the sample so we're sure it's fresh. Not a thing we can do now, god help us, if some athlete's bamboozled his chaperon in the toilet, if he's hidden a pouch of clean urine up his rectum or a rubber tube in his pubic hair. Wouldn't be the first time! To the fridge with the B sample, deep-freeze it at -20[degrees] Celsius in case we need to confirm a positive. Well done.

The A sample, now! To the Gilson 222XL with it, so it's divided into subportions of one to five milliliters and we can test it for stimulants, narcotics, steroids, diuretics, beta blockers and hCG. No time for questions, but since you asked, that's human chorionic gonadotrophin, the stuff cheaters take to stimulate testosterone production and keep their nuts from shrinking.

To the racks with all those test tubes! Quickly, 125 gallons of urine are a-comin', enough to fill a spa bath. Smell? What smell? Unless our cyclist or freestyler dined on asparagus last night or was so dehydrated from his event this morning that his urine is one of those high-concentrate cocktails, we barely notice an odor. Of course, when we're done and pour it all down the sink—yikes!

O.K. Add the surrogate compound to each test tube, the one we'll use to ensure that our detectors are detecting. Slip the spiked sample into each batch of 20 test tubes, another self-check. Remember our priorities! Weightlifters' and sprinters' urine to the front of the line! Badminton piss? To the rear! Off with them now, to the high-priced hardware, each subportion to a different battery of chemists testing for a different family of drugs. Let's see if we've got any dopers gold-digging today.

First to our steroid hound dog, the HRMS. Inject a portion of that urine sample into the little oven of the mass spectrometer's gas chromatograph, where it'll heat till it vaporizes and separates into its compounds. Now those compounds will take a little ride on a whoosh of helium through a tube. Each compound has its own characteristic speed, see, so the time it takes to flow through the tube provides a clue to its identity. Next comes the moment of truth, the ambush waiting at the end of the tube: a bombardment of electrons that smash each compound into charged fragments called ions, each with a different mass. Measure that mass, graph it against the time it took the compound to exit the tube, and bingo, we've got the goods, a gas chromatogram mass spectrometer "fingerprint" of each compound. Beauty, eh?

You say there's blood at the front door? Wonderful! Invite it in! Why should anyone be allowed to reap the 2% to 3% performance boost—huge in events often decided by hundredths of seconds—that comes from the additional red blood cells produced by synthetic EPO? Or maybe we should just let the scoundrels take it, collect their medals and die from heart attack or stroke, the way some two dozen cyclists seem to have done.

Enough! Eight seconds is all we've scheduled for righteousness. It's time to trot out Trout's baby, the crowning achievement of his career: the tests that his team—Kerry Emslie, Chris Howe and Jill Rogerson—in conjunction with Dr. Peter Davis's team at the Australian Institute of Sport, devised to rid the world of EPO abuse. It's not a one-shot test, can't be that simple, because EPO is naturally found in the body. No, it's a series of tests detecting other things produced in the blood when there's an unnaturally high level of EPO, any one of which could provide a false positive but all of which, evaluated together, provide solid evidence of cheating.

Two-milliliter portions of each blood sample—send 'em down the hallway to the Bayer ADVIA machine, on the double. It'll tell us if there are too many fresh red blood cells or too high an overall percentage of red blood cells, two indicators of hanky-panky. To the Dade Behring machine with other portions of those samples! That will sniff out a suspiciously high number of soluble transferrin receptors, and you're nuts if you think we've got time to explain that.

Truth is, those tests alone kick out enough data for Trout to know, in 9,999 cases out of 10,000, whether he's caught a fraud red-handed, but do you think the IOC is going to risk a world-record lawsuit on that? Certainly not. So all he's allowed to assert is that he's found an "indicative" result, and now the accompanying urine sample of the athlete in question must be whisked through a test recently devised by a team of French scientists for confirmation. Trouble is, the French urine test can detect EPO only if it was taken in the previous three days, while the Aussie blood test can expose its use in the previous 20 days, meaning the flimflammers who got off the stuff only four days before giving blood will get away with it! And even those who knocked off a month earlier will have received some advantage. Sure, the IOC will quietly file away the names of those who failed the blood but passed the urine test and might do follow-up tests in an attempt to nab these cads later, but too late to take away their Olympic medals, too late to stop the coolest drug tester from grabbing what little hair he has and tearing it from his scalp.

All that was occurring in Trout's lab, but, heaven forbid, he would never describe it in that way. He collected a stack of gas chromatograms, the fingerprints that the HRMS computer was spitting out. He was a demon at scanning them, a speed-reader capable of absorbing 600 to 700 words a minute, and his eye for spotting a suspect compound, his memory of several hundred banned substances' fingerprints, deserved a standing O.

He would feel no glee if he detected a drug, nor any compassion for the athlete whose future now hung in the balance. Sometimes a positive finding was recorded so matter-of-factly that others in Trout's lab would learn of it only as they sat in front of their televisions a week later, when the news was released to the public. A positive indicator at this point in the process would mostly mean more work, more verification procedures while one green shoulder bag of urine after the next piled up at the door. Because now a full-scan confirmation would have to begin, check after check of the suspicious urine, with water sent through between retests to prevent cross-contamination, and urine blanks—control samples from someone in the lab whose urine was known to be clean—inserted as well to provide continual comparisons.

So it wasn't true, what many people thought about Trout's work: that it was a pour-pee-into-a-machine-and-wait-five-minutes-for- a-smoking-gun-printout process. Each of those rechecking cycles chewed up half an hour; the entire steroid scan swallowed three hours, not counting the time-devouring task of reading the three two-sided printout pages produced for each sample, and not counting the tests for diuretics, narcotics and stimulants occurring on other machines. If a positive were found by Trout, the athlete could demand that the entire procedure be redone on the B sample, with the athlete or his representative permitted to be present. But athletes haven't often stayed once they realized they would have to sit in the lab all day and night through the painstaking prep work and process.

Roughly 70 positive samples—one percent of the 7,000 examined—had been found by Trout's lab in 1999. But these were the Olympics, and yes, Trout would admit, he might experience a flutter of slightly greater magnitude than normal were a positive to show up now, especially if it came from the blood test that his lab had helped design. Exactly what would Trout feel if he were to discover, when the IOC matched the sample numbers to names, that he had nailed a gold medalist? Was he in this business because cheating angered him, because such dishonesty and disregard for the drugs' ruinous effects on an athlete's heart, liver, kidneys, sex organs and brain made him seethe? "It bothers me," Trout would say, "but no, it's not an issue I'd ever get up on a soapbox about. I don't like cheats. I like a level playing field. But anger is too strong a word."

Somewhere in the Village a young man pulls on his sweats: It's time. All the sickening lows, when injuries and defeats made him cry or want to quit, come back to him. All the intoxicating triumphs, when arenas roared for him and cameramen battled for space at his elbow, return too. The thing that has driven him to such extremes of pain and self-denial—that's there as well, so close he can almost touch it: the hurt over some loss in his life, the fear that he isn't worthy, the need for love or glory. All those feelings, all that fuel, swirl inside him now, as a bald, bony chemist steps out of his lab and. . . .

Hold it. Where was Trout going with that empty bottle? The man with the large ears and impassive brown eyes approached the men's room. Who better to provide a control sample, the urine blank against which the Olympians' samples would be compared? Who but Trout, the perfect blank, a man who neither danced, sang, smoked or drank tea or coffee, a man who had never swallowed an alcoholic beverage until he was 28 and hadn't since, save for an occasional glass of wine. A chemist whose brain circuitry whirred so relentlessly that he sometimes awoke at night, worrying that his tests were not rigorous enough.

Imagine being a man who held that tight a grip on himself, his life and his work. Imagine being a man who, like Trout, flew single-engine planes and trained novice glider pilots for leisure, a man so methodical and adept that two years ago he landed a high-wing monoplane with a smoking instrument panel on a tarmac that would be lined with fire engines, ambulances and police cars. Imagine being the man whom all staffers in the AGAL building, environmental and forensic as well as sports chemists, summoned whenever the failure of a mass spectrometer baffled them—that rare man who felt neither dread nor rage constricting his throat when a frighteningly expensive and complex machine went dead on deadline. "If you understand what's occurring," Trout would say, "you have no fear."

Imagine being the man who would be called in from a dead sleep if such a crisis occurred during this Olympic fortnight, who would trace the instruments' functions backward, step by step, until he pinpointed the source of the glitch, then turn the task over to his most striking physical feature, his exceedingly delicate hands—why, they looked as if they belonged to a 21-year-old violinist! They would go where others feared to tread, pluck out a washer barely larger than a gnat's necklace, thread a screw never to be seen again if one of his fingers slipped.

Imagine being that sort of man, and every few weeks picking up the newspaper or turning on the news to learn of another athlete or attorney casting aspersions on the tests and the testers who had found drugs in a urine sample. Imagine how the testers' eyes rolled, how the right corner of Trout's lips lifted, when they gathered at the annual Anti-Doping Workshop in Cologne, Germany, and exchanged tales of the latest alibis.

Contamination! The spectrometer's injecting syringe, Your Honor! All it would take is one drop on it from a previous sample. . . . The syringe is washed six times with solvent between injections, sir. Dirty transfer! Who can guarantee that someone else's sample didn't mix with mine when it was being poured into so many test tubes? Dirty transfers do indeed occur, about once every two years—perhaps one in every 10,000 samples—in our lab. Would you care to calculate the mathematical probability that it occurred each of the three times that extracts from your sample tested positive, sir? A computer virus caused my false positive! Ohhhh. A virus that struck only when your sample was checked, three times, madam, but never when the urine blanks or water blanks or all the other athletes' samples were tested? Why, the stanozolol had to have been in the steak I ate the night before! For that to have occurred, an unknown agent of evil would have had to inject the steroid into the exact cut of meat you ate, just before you ate it; otherwise it would have already begun to metabolize and take a different form. My birth control pills! They increase the presence of nandrolone in a woman's urine only to a level of one to two nanograms per milliliter, madam. Not nearly enough to cause a positive. But I downed two six-packs of beer! That sent my testosterone over the top! Alcohol has virtually no effect on a man's testosterone level, sir. Foul play! Someone spiked my drink! Someone spiked my toothpaste! It was in my dietary supplement! It was in my Chinese herbs! Then, of course, there was the ever-popular combo-platter smoke screen, bunching three or four of the above in hopes of clouding the issue; never mind that each element of the smoke bomb was a virtual impossibility.

Trout had withstood such attacks on a witness stand. He had defended his lab against the lifted eyebrows and vague innuendos of a lawyer—and won. Poor barrister, matched against Captain Cool-Calm-and-Collected, a master of anticipating where a line of questioning was heading and waiting there with a bucket of cold logic.

But most sports cases never reached a court of law. Most hearings occurred in front of national sporting federations that brushed aside drug testers' evidence rather than bring down their countries' heroes, athletes often living on stipends from the very federations that were judging them. Ninety percent of IOC member nations didn't even conduct regular out-of-competition drug tests, the only true way to clean up the Games, a sorry and haphazard state of affairs that the IOC never seemed in a rush to fix, perhaps for fear that a new rash of drug busts would further tarnish its facade of purity and its inflow of corporate cash.

Until this year, supposedly. In theory the IOC's newly formed World Anti-Doping Agency would begin to change all that by conducting 2,500 out-of-competition drug tests before the Olympics and removing the question of guilt or innocence from the hands of national sporting federations. But the IOC's record on testing and enforcement is marked by what the White House report calls "persistent patterns of irregularities." Moreover, athletes in Sydney will not be tested for human growth hormone, insulin growth factor and products that essentially serve as artificial blood. Reviews were mixed over whether an organization that mysteriously lost nine positive findings reported by the Los Angeles drug lab at the 1984 Olympics, and chose not to pursue a series of positive steroid results at the 1996 Atlanta Games, was finally serious about fumigation.

And Trout? What side effects had such bureaucratic butchery, hypocritical hanky-panky and acrobatic alibiing had on his spleen? "Well," he would say, "it makes you think that what you're doing is less pointful. That we're spending a lot of time and money to find something, but when it's found, sometimes nothing happens. I get a little depressed about that."

Depressed, Trout? Yes, go on, elaborate: Disillusioned, maybe? Perhaps even. . .hurt? "No," said Trout. "It's the way of the world. That some athletes are taking drugs and should be stopped is important, but not as important as all the people in the world being bombed, killed, executed or ethnically cleansed. Let's call it a nagging frustration, but not go as far as to say it disillusions me."

Famished. Was that too strong a word? It was early afternoon when Trout retreated with his lunch bag to the picnic table behind the building for his daily ritual: Open the bag. Pull out the tomato, the knife and the four slices of whole-grain bread. Eat the two tomato sandwiches and two pieces of fruit, drink the glass of tap water, read the work journal. Stay skinny, get smarter, return to business 20 minutes later.

Birthdays broke his routine. On those days, the drug tester being feted would bring a cake to share at morning tea as colleagues sang Happy Birthday, and then he or she would be taken out to lunch. A particularly moist cake would provoke an outbreak of drug-tester humor, a series of requests for a B sample. Trout's birthday, until recently, had remained his secret, passing as he wished it to: unsung.

The sun was setting outside the lab windows. Trout's eyes roved from test tubes to clock, gauging work flow, as he murmured encouragement here, urgency there. He could not drop his guard.

At any moment mystery markers could appear on the reams of printouts he kept poring over. That would flush him into the lab library in search of molecular formulas that matched this mystery guest, then to the phones and the E-mail network to see if drug cops elsewhere could put a name to a perplexing fingerprint. Hours of crunch time might evaporate if Trout couldn't I.D. a compound from a weed-killer or a new cleansing product in an athlete's urine, but it wouldn't matter to him if darkness had fallen and he should have departed the Pisshouse long ago.

After all, more than an Olympic medal could be at stake. Only two years ago, a urine sample being tested for hCG had signaled the presence of a testicular tumor in Australian field hockey player Greg Corbitt. Trout's report was what brought doctors' attention to it, and it saved Corbitt's life.

It's nearly midnight. Somewhere in the Village lies a young man in a strange bed, waiting for morning to learn if he has outwitted the drug tester. He does not know the nature of the man driving home in weary silence. A man with no flag to wave, no dream to chase, no salvation to achieve, no gold to crave. A man more stimulated by process than principle, detached yet absolutely dedicated. The scariest of foes.

The young man cannot hear Trout unlock his door and kiss his 38-year-old Ugandan wife, Masooma. She's the former drug tester on his staff whose family fled Idi Amin's regime and whom he married eight years ago, when he was 48, to the shock of colleagues who never even knew they were dating. The young man cannot see Trout smiling over the crib of his dozing one-year-old boy, Lachlan—another shock for coworkers, who were never told, until it was about to occur, that Trout, at 55, was becoming a dad.

One can never presume to know the secret life of a man, either Olympian or drug tester. That hum, back in the lab, is the sound of an athlete's urine being injected into a machine and separated into all its parts. Then Trout's urine. May the best man win.