5 minutes with... Jeff Porter
In this new episode of our “5 minutes with…” series, we spoke with Dr Jeff Porter. Beyond his role as part of WADA’s Athlete Committee, Jeff is Assistant Vice President for Development/Associate Athletic Director at Miami University (OH). He also serves as the Athlete Advisory Chairman for USA Track & Field and sits on the board of directors. Jeff is a two-time Olympian in Track & Field (London 2012 and Rio 2016) and coaches his wife Tiffany Porter, also an Olympian in Track and Field. They have a young daughter and she probably runs fast too!
This interview transcript has been slightly adapted to make it easier to read, without altering the meaning.
Why did you join WADA’s Athlete Committee?
I joined WADA because I was concerned about the state of anti-doping around the world, especially in our sport. I’m in a sport that has a lot of doping challenges, whether they are individual or issues with countries. I got involved because I wanted to see if I could make a difference in bringing that issue to light and really supporting the athletes.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
Good question. I practice taijutsu in my free time. Most people don’t know but I am an avid martial artist and continue to do that even to this day.
What is the best part about being a twin?
I tell my twin this all the time: should anything happen to me, I have spare parts walking around! Seriously, I think my twin is kind of a stand-in for me when I’m not able to be there. For example, my wife and I and my sister-in-law, we had to go to Tokyo to compete in the Olympic Games and I sent my daughter home to my twin. She fell in love with him almost instantly, although she had met him just a few times. She got to spend two weeks with him. And it’s good to have somebody who knows you better than anybody else. We have jokes that nobody knows about, we have experiences that nobody knows about. It’s fun having that kind of person with whom you share something very very close, but no one can quite figure it out.
What lessons and values of sport do you want to teach your daughter?
The biggest thing I teach my baby girl is something she does very naturally, it’s that she continues to fail. She fails when she walks, when she runs into something or she trips and she falls. Or she can’t pronounce a word and she continues to try. That is something that I hope she never loses because I think as an adult, we become scared of failure. My daughter thrives on it, and she learns from it. That’s the lesson that I learned through competition. Every race, every competition, is not going to be good but you learn the most when you fail. When my daughter was trying to be like mom and dad and trying to hurdle over the summer, she fell and she cried, but she got up and just kept trying again. And she just kept trying again and again. Those are the lessons I want her to continue to learn.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
To keep persevering, that the challenges that you’re experiencing are worth it. But I would also tell myself to live every moment and to enjoy the relationships. I think as we get older, we experience losing people in our lives to cancer and to a lot of other things. I’d have made more of a conscious effort to really enjoy those moments, to really enjoy the people I was around.
What’s your favorite food that you’ve eaten when traveling?
Tokyo had some really good food! I really enjoyed the food in Japan, it was amazing. Switzerland has some really good chocolate too. You got to try Swiss chocolate - nothing against Belgian chocolate but Swiss chocolate is amazing.
Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and your pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be?
Before my father passed in 2008, he wrote a series of journals. I would go get those journals. I keep them in my library just in case I need inspiration or a quick pick-me-up. Everything else can be replaced - the Olympic rings and all that. But as long as my family is safe, I would go get those journals.
What is something you will not be doing in 10 years?
Changing diapers. I will not be changing diapers in 10 years. I will be done with that as soon as I possibly can.
What’s your favorite sport?
American football. I grew up on American football. If I wasn’t running track (athletics), I would be trying to play football. That was my first love, that got me into sports. There is something just exhilarating about watching American football.
What do you want to achieve as a member of WADA’s Athlete Committee?
Two things: I want to ensure that we have a working international ombudsman office. If we can get that done, that would be a major achievement. And second, put some substantive rules and regulations in place. Should countries or large organizations conspire to dope their athletes, they should face harsher punishments than the individual athlete themselves. I have a really big issue with individual athletes serving bans that are longer than if a country or organization served the ban. For me that doesn’t make any sense. So, if we can accomplish those things, I would be unbelievably happy with my time at WADA.