My Interview with Olympic Athlete Dotsie Bausch
Olympic athlete, Dotsie Bausch is on my list of “People Who Really Inspire Me.” I am very excited to share her story.
I first learned about Dotsie Bausch after watching her TED Talk “Olympic Level Compassion.” You can see her TED talk here. She has overcome so much and turned adversity into victory for herself, her country and for animals.
Before becoming an elite cyclist, Dotsie was a fashion model struggling with eating disorders and drug addiction. Her therapist told her she should get involved in an activity, so she took up cycling. She liked cycling and discovered she was good at it. She started competing and became a 7-time U.S National Champion, and two-time Pan American gold medal winner. She qualified to compete in the 2012 London Olympics where she won a silver medal in track cycling. Her training schedule was intense. It was not unusual for her to train six hours a day or more. She was able to sustain this kind of intense training program while following a plant-based diet. Plant based diets are becoming increasingly popular among athletes wanting to increase performance, but performance was not why Dotsie changed her diet. She changed her diet because of her compassion for animals.
She was watching a program one evening that showed footage of what routinely happens to animals on factory farms. The animals were being beaten, kicked, burned, scalded, and cruelly prodded to slaughter when they were too sick to walk to their death. She saw the cruel confinement systems these animals must live in and the horrible filth. She decided in a moment that she could no longer contribute to this cruel system and adopted a plant-based diet.
Dotsie has become an important voice for animals. Her current project is Compassion Champs. Here is my interview with her.
Dawn What were the first positive results you noticed once you began transitioning to a plant based diet?
Dotsie There are SO many benefits aren’t there? Wow- I often wish I could infuse the euphoric feeling and the vitality that us plant based eaters experience everyday, into others, so they could experience just for a fleeting moment this extraordinary state of being, because then they would never, ever go back to eating animals! When I began my plant-based journey, I was already a professional athlete, about half way through my career in cycling. I came to cycling very late in the game, at the age of 26, so by the time I began leaving all animals and animal products off my plate, I was in my mid-thirties. To say I had to focus on premium, optimal recovery at that age is an understatement. Most of my competitors were in their early twenties and my teammates were too. As we age our cellular regeneration slows down, and the time it takes to repair from an injury, a workout session, or even a sunburn seems to take forever compared to what it used to. I was in a constant battle to recover as fast as my teammates so that I could be strong and ready for the next day’s training. The #1 thing I noticed going plant based, almost immediately, was that my repair process, my recovery process sped up so abruptly, that I began to recover in half the time of some of teammates! It was jaw dropping the speed at which I would be ready for another pounding workout. Right before the Olympic Games, I was literally sitting on the track bored and yawning waiting for my team mates to recover in between intervals. In 2012, at the age of 39½, I stood on the Olympic podium, the oldest competitor in history in my specific discipline.
Dawn Did you initially get push back from coaches about going plant based? It seems more accepted now but there is still a great deal of bias toward athletes eating animal protein.
Dotsie I didn't experience push back because I was old enough to be making my own nutritional choices. Its not like I was 16 years old on a ball sport team where everyone had to eat together all the time. I certainly experienced my fair share of people laughing or questioning, but I didn't really care to entertain them. I knew what I was doing was how I was going to live for the rest of my life, true to and in line with my core values of non-violence, love and compassion.
Dawn What is your favorite plant based meal?
I love to think in terms of ethnicities when I am deciding what to make. My top 10 favorite all time recipes (because who can pick just oneJ can be found here:
Dawn It seems going plant based changed so many things for you including your latest project Compassion Champs.
Dotsie So, our organization is not a physical animal sanctuary. Compassion Champs is a movement focused on education, advocacy and effective activism. Our goal is to be the “meat eaters” compassion “university,” if you will. There are many wonderful animal rights organizations out there doing incredible work. We do not want to re-invent the wheel. We want to offer a new, positive way for people to be introduced to plant based eating and saying no to cruelty. I feel some of the animal rights organizations are more of a vegan support group, but the horror of these animal videos and in your face approach turns off many meat eaters to hearing our message. If we want to save animals, we have to present the information in a loving, supportive manner and allow people to take their own journey with the new information they have received. One of our first projects is using Champions in athletics, nutrition, medicine, physiology and disease prevention and creating a video series of these champs telling their unique, individual stories of going plant based. I believe that it is very powerful. l highlight personal stories that people can relate to, which eventually changes minds and open hearts.
Dawn Thank you for your time Dotsie, is there anything you would like to add?
Please mention our crowdrise project! https://www.crowdrise.com/compassion-champs
Fueled by Compassion
By Dotsie Bausch
This summer, stars of athleticism zoom across our television screens, catching our attention and gaining our admiration. The Olympics have always celebrated incredible grit, resilience and competition. Understandably, mercy or compassion might not be the first words that come to mind when we think about an Olympic athlete’s attributes. For me, however, the two pieces are inseparable, and both very close to my heart.
My experience as an Olympic cyclist, which included a silver medal victory in the 2012 Games, was accompanied by a journey even more meaningful, invigorating and rewarding – namely, my choice to incorporate kindness into my daily life in a way I never had before. At every meal, I made a conscious decision to reject cruelty and endorse love.
My choice to adopt a plant-based diet was not simply emotional. After all, I’m a straight-shooter - a direct, intense and logically minded person. As it turned out, from both an ethical and practical perspective, no other lifestyle made sense, and I wanted people to realize it too. After years as an athlete, I felt a deeper calling, and I’ve never turned back since.
My journey to the Olympic cycling podium is marked by struggle and self-discovery. A former runway model, I battled cocaine addiction and anorexia at a young age. After two suicide attempts, I found myself at a crossroads and made the choice to fight for my life. Recovery was not easy. My story is highlighted by moments of personal reflection and powerful proactivity. Choosing to fight for my life was one of these moments. Choosing to fight for the lives of animals was another.
After years of self-destructive behaviors, sickness, and addiction I underwent years of intensive therapy. When my therapist advised that I incorporate exercise into my recovery plan, I randomly selected cycling, which quickly became a passion and grounding force in my life. I found myself rapidly improving, training six hours a day, six days a week. Years of practice and rigorous discipline finally brought me to the Olympic level. I did all of this, all of this training and so much more, eating no meat whatsoever.
I was compelled to go meatless after seeing an exposé about the routine cruelty of factory-farming. Horrified, I watched pigs and cows beaten, blinded, prodded and burned. I immediately felt disgust towards what I had witnessed, and I was both humbled and ashamed, realizing that I was a mediator of this brutality. As the program concluded, I decided that I would no longer support an industry that senselessly, kills, traumatizes and punishes innocent animals, who are all capable of feeling and loving. That night, with the same brand of determination that propelled me as an athlete, I decided that I would never eat meat again – no matter how hard it would be.
But how can an Olympic-level athlete be properly sustained without meat?
Perhaps you think, as many do, that going meatless will weaken you or deprive you of protein. Protein is, however, found in large quantities, in plants, fruits and vegetables. In fact, several plant-based choices often offer larger amounts of protein than meat. One hundred calories of beef, for instance, has ten grams of protein, while one hundred grams of spinach has 12. This way of eating offers several health benefits as well. Scientific evidence clearly indicates that meatless diets lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Cortisol in many meats is compellingly linked to tumor growth, for example.
Soon after my dietary change, I experienced mental clarity and physical rejuvenation. After intense cycling training sessions, I was able to recover in half the time of my younger teammates. In fact, as a plant-based athlete, I stood on the Olympic platform at almost 40 years old - the oldest Olympic competitor ever in my specific discipline!
But I’m far from the only elite athlete who has experienced the competitive edge of a plant-based diet. This year, Kendrick Farris, the only American male weightlifter to compete at the Olympics, is fueled by his protein-packed vegan diet. Other celebrated Olympians from past years, including nine-time track gold medalist Carl Lewis, mixed martial arts great Mac Danzig and tennis legend Martina Navratilova are plant-based as well.
Whether ethical, nutritional or environmental, the paths to plant-based living are plentiful. Moreover, in enabling a more compassionate world, the lifestyle is incredibly rewarding. Since going vegan, I’ve felt kindness spreading to new areas of my life, rippling into my conversations, soothing arguments and enabling patience, love and understanding.
Animal rights work has given me a sense of purpose far greater than anything else in my life. In a matter of weeks, I’ll be opening Silver Lining Rescue in Kentucky, where an educational, immersive environment will allow the public to gain a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of animals. Our YouTube channel will amplify the message to viewers across the nation. Started as a tiny seed of thought in my mind, this project has the power to male a deep and lasting impact, and I’ve never been more excited.
I’ve coined the term “Olympic Level Compassion” to encapsulate my belief that each person has the potential to spread goodness in a unique, far-reaching way. Surely we all consider the people we want to be and the world we want to see. I urge you to recognize your ability to help bring that image to life. To adopt a plant-based lifestyle is simply to acknowledge that compassion falls into your worldview, and to act accordingly. Taking that small step can do more good than you would ever imagine.
Dotsie Bausch is an Olympian and silver medalist from the London 2012 Olympic Games and a seven-time U.S. National Champion in cycling. She founded the non-profit, social impact animal protection organization, Compassion Champs earlier this year.