In our jaded post-Lance Armstrong world, even the sleepiest sports are not immune to the vigilance of the United States Anti-Doping Agency. After a week spent crouched low, kneepads on, caught fish stuffed in their trouser pockets, the winners of last week’s World Ice Fishing Championship were led to a room in the Plaza Hotel, Wausau, Wisconsin, to be tested for steroids and growth hormones.
“We do not test for beer, because then everyone would fail,” said Joel McDearmon, the chairman of the US Freshwater Fishing Federation. In a sport where there is no prize money and keeping warm is seen as the biggest hurdle to success (anglers forgo gloves in order to feel better the tug of the perch or bluegill), it seems there is still room for mirth at the agency’s move.
Ice fishing, along with a number of other fringe sports, is currently having to embrace testing as they make a curveball attempt to have their sports recognised as future Winter Olympic events. That hasn’t stopped some in the strategy-heavy sport, where competitors drill 20in holes into the ice and must stay with their rod at all times, grumbling about the intrusion of having to wee into a plastic jar. Although, with two mini-golfers (also candidates for Olympic recognition), one chess player, two bowlers, eight roller-sport athletes and one tug-of-war competitor proving positive for banned drugs in 2011 alone, the fishermen and their friends may have to suck it up.