Getting a fresh, new perspective on life
LONDON - First the drug tester told American beach volleyball player Jake Gibb that he was suspended. Then he said to call a doctor. A quick Internet search told Gibb the abnormal levels of hormones in his blood were most often found in pregnant women, steroid users and men with testicular cancer. A biopsy soon confirmed what he had already concluded. The doping ban was lifted, but Gibb was expected to miss the Olympics anyway while recovering. "The Olympics were out," he said in a video posted to his website in the days leading up to the London Games. "It was a tough dream to let go of. The toughest part was telling people and letting them know. Because once it came out of my mouth, it felt real."But surgery got the cancer — all of it, meaning Gibb didn't need chemotherapy. He got back on tour with partner Sean Rosenthal and earned enough points to qualify for London in the last event of the year. Now, Gibb is a two-time Olympian. And a two-time cancer survivor. "The pinnacle of our sport is the Olympic games. For me to go and put USA on my chest, it means the world to me. It's something so special," said Gibb, who has a scar on his left shoulder from a 2004 skin cancer. "It almost wasn't a reality to me. I was scared. I didn't know anything about it, didn't know how to react." Gibb and Rosenthal, who finished fifth in Beijing, won their first match in the 2012 Games before losing their second on Monday night against Poland. Asked about all that has transpired since the 2008 Olympics, Gibb politely referred a reporter to his website and declined to discuss it. Said Rosenthal: "It was tough at first, but he's such a strong guy. He was working as hard as anybody." According to spokesman Hans Stolfus, who helped produce the video at jakegibb.com, Gibb was told by USADA in December 2010 that he had abnormal levels of alpha fetoprotein and beta-hCG in his blood and he would be suspended for doping. Beta-hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is often taken by steroid users to combat testicular shrinkage that is a side effect of the performance-enhancing drugs. Before the tester hung up, he told Gibb to go see a doctor immediately — but he would not say why, Stolfus said. Gibb's Internet search found a lot of references to AFP and beta-hCG for pregnant women but only one explanation in men: testicular cancer. "USADA actually saved his life," Stolfus said.