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Kicker’s True Story – A Letter from Dave Denniston

Why am I posting this? A couple months ago, I stayed with Dave, Kicker, and Andrew while filming Dave. I was with these guys for a few days, and got to see them in their day-to-day lives. On top of the fridge was the standard assortment of over-the-counter nutritional supplements. Things you can buy from GNC, nothing fancy.

Kicker is absolutely just a nice guy. He’s funny, hard working, focused on getting ahead, and MAN can THAT BOY TALK!!! I talked to Kicker today along with Dave, and I told Kicker I felt bad for him, and was behind him. What good is my word if I don’t even publish this letter from Dave?

I hope the best for Kicker, and I apprecaite Dave’s openness, and courage for standing up for his friend. This is the kind of guy I want in MY camp! You can comment about this article here. (Make sure you’re a member)

– Glenn Mills

Kicker’s True Story

by Dave Denniston

Many of you may have heard about Kicker Vencill testing positive for a banned substance. Since it has been released, I have received several questions about what’s going on. I have been Kicker’s roommate for over a year, and I was there from the test (not in the actual bathroom, but there) until his birthday last Monday when USADA told him he was banned for four years.

Why I’m writing this:
I know with one hundred percent confidence that Kicker is innocent of knowingly taking a banned substance to enhance his performance. Several of the things that Kicker went through in the last six months have caused me reason for concern, and in the best interest of our sport, and his integrity, I am shedding light on those issues. I am not writing this to challenge USADA or any of the doping officials.

The FedEx:
I was sitting on the couch, when Kicker came through the door panicked and shaking. I had never seen him like this before, and I knew something was up. He immediately blurted out, “They said I tested positive for some sh*t I’ve never heard of!” I read the papers in the fed ex while he frantically tried to call people to find out what was going on. Stacy Michael was the first person he called. Upon hearing that he had tested positive she told him that she was not allowed to talk to him. Almost everyone turned their back on Kicker at that moment, and presumed that he was guilty without even talking to him. Kicker’s only support, besides his coach and family, was a family friend who was a lawyer willing to take on his case.

The Test Results:
According to the test results of Kicker’s “A” sample, they found approximately 4 Nanograms (that’s 2 billionths of a gram over the cut-off) of 19-Norandrosterone in his urine. There are documented cases in which prior to January of 2003 results between 2 and 5 nanograms were considered a grey area, and the cases were dropped. According to other cases of 19-Norandrosterone, athletes who have knowingly and admittedly taken the substance tested well over 20 Nanograms, and sometimes in the hundreds of thousands.

The “B” sample:
According to USADA’s rules, athletes have the right to be present for the testing of the “B” sample at their own expense. A week before the testing of the “B” sample, Kicker set up an appointment with USADA at the UCLA testing lab to be present at 9:00 AM on February 18th because that is when they were going to test his second sample. Upon arrival to the lab, with Coach Salo, they found out that Kicker’s sample was still frozen and they wouldn’t be testing it until much later that afternoon. They had the option to stay at UCLA for seven hours and wait around if they wanted to observe the testing. They declined that option, as practice was at 4pm that day. So much for being present for the testing of the “B” sample.

How they test:
Before I get too far into this, realize I’m putting this into layman’s terms, so people like you and I can understand it. I do understand essentially what’s going on, and I do know that there are some major holes. Dr. Catlin testified at Kicker’s Arbitration that he uses his own method of testing which he claims is better than the method that the IOC requires for prosecution of an athlete. So basically Dr. Catlin doesn’t follow IOC protocol because he thinks his method is better. In testing there is a series of solutions that get “baked” in a MS (mass spectrometer machine). Some of the solutions are positive, and some are negative. Before an athlete’s urine is run through a bake and then tested a “negative” solution is supposed to be baked first. Dr. Catlin insists that the baking process removes any “positive” remains and so he doesn’t run the negative solution before the Urine Sample of the athlete. So, there is small chance (perhaps 2 billionths of a gram small?) that positive remains could be left in the MS machine for an Athlete’s sample to mix with. Whether this is the case or not, realize that the urine samples that we provide as athletes are not being tested according to IOC protocol at the UCLA laboratory and Dr. Catlin.

What Kicker Did:
Kicker essentially did nothing more than any other elite athlete in our sport. Other national team athletes openly and admittedly take supplements on a regular basis. Kicker was taking the exact same thing as other athletes when he tested positive. Nearly every athlete on the USA National team takes some sort of supplement. Kicker was no different. Even “Swimming World” and several Coaching publications have advertisements for supplements. Kicker did absolutely nothing wrong, and he definitely didn’t knowingly take anything banned to enhance his performance. As a matter of fact, USADA didn’t even enforce the six-month retroactive ban, because the levels of 19-Norandrosterone were so small that it couldn’t of enhanced his performance.

My Opinion on this Case:USADA and all the anti-doping associations are implemented to create a level playing field for us as athletes. With Kicker’s case, I feel like they essentially took a pebble off of a mountain. I also feel like getting banned for four years is absolutely ridiculous. Kicker got the death penalty for running over a cat. (Or, as Coach Salo said, he didn?t even kill the cat, he just ran over its tail.) In the mean time, several athletes all over the world have hired doctors to use banned substances that get around these tests. I fell like the people who have enforced this ruling must have no idea what it’s like to train for at least four hours a day, hold a job, and dedicate yourself to a dream. I don’t think they know that, because if they did they wouldn’t so haphazardly rip that dream away from someone who was working so hard to fulfill it. I don’t feel like these organizations are doing their job. In our sport alone within the last year, there have been three “cases” documented by USADA. One girl took Sudafed, another missed a test because she was retired, and then there’s Kicker’s, which was so low that they admitted it didn’t even enhance his performance. What’s being done about the people who are actually cheating? Nothing.

Regardless of those facts, here’s my opinion on Kicker:
From the moment he heard the news of the positive test, Kicker never gave up hope in believing he would get out of this. He knew it was so ridiculous that they surely would see there was a mistake. But it still weighed heavy on his mind every day. He was facing losing his dream and his passion for six months. There were several times I could see him fighting back tears with all that he could muster. Regardless of these things, he came to every workout and trained like the elite athlete he is. He went to meets and swam every swim as if it were his last. He never, not even once, thought of just giving up and quitting. In the last six months he has become a role model to me. His perseverance and heart are as strong as any man I’ve ever seen, and that is something to be admired by anyone. Understandably, his family supported him with love, kindness and concern every step of the way. Everyone that knows Kicker, knows the truth? he’s innocent. But he’s also a fighter, a hard worker, a strong Christian, a friend, and a role model.

David Denniston
USA National Team
Kicker’s Roommate