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It was a little less than a year into her swimming comeback and, at age 40, Dara Torres was blazing through her heats during the 2007 swimming nationals in Indianapolis.
“I swam really fast and my coach (the late Michael Lohberg) said, ‘Everyone is talking about you.’ I’m like, ‘Cool.’ He’s like, ‘No, no. Not cool. They all think you’re not doing it the right way.’ And I said, ‘We have to do something about that,’” Torres recalls. “Imagine putting your heart and soul into something your entire life and having someone say that you must be cheating.”
That was the stark reality Torres says she faced that summer while she prepared for the 2008 Beijing Olympics — only a year after giving birth to her daughter, she was smack in the middle of a steroid era, where there was intense scrutiny throughout all sports on doping issues.
“Mind you I understand. (The media) has had many athletes look you in the eye, and say, ‘I have not taken PEDs.’ And then they’re either in jail or (not playing) anymore,” says Torres, who competed in her first Olympics in 1984. “But I was just dumbfounded. I’d never experienced that before.”