More than a decade ago, Dotsie Bausch’s life was spiraling out of control. She was battling a serious eating disorder that had reduced her weight to a dangerous 40 kilograms. Now, she is a world-class U.S. track cyclist who will compete at the upcoming London Olympics.
Dotsie Bausch once considered committing suicide. While working as a model in New York City in the 1990s, she used cocaine and other recreational drugs and turned anorexic, a disease that ravaged her body. The choice was hers - either live or die.
“The age-old reaching rock bottom. I mean everybody’s is different, and I got to mine and that was probably the step for me that said, `Okay, I want to make, I need to make some changes.’ Initially, I really didn’t do it for myself," she said. "It was more for my family because I realized I wasn’t going to be around much longer if I continued on that path, and I didn’t really care. But I had such an awesome support system, and I knew how devastating that would be.”
Bausch found an outlet. With renewed energy, she took up cycling in 1998 and was soon pedaling in charity rides, including an 877-kilometer journey on a mountain bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Bausch soon advanced from novice to Category 1 racer, the highest level in USA Cycling. She landed on the U.S. National Team in 2002.
The 1.75-meter-tall cyclist competed in some of the biggest road races in the world. But after nearly a decade she wanted to try something different and transitioned to track cycling in 2007. She was eventually named to the U.S. squad in team pursuit, where three riders compete in a 3,000-meter race on fixed bikes on an oval track.
Now 39, the first-time Olympian is preparing for the London Games.
As Bausch put it, cycling has changed her life in “a million positive ways.”
“It was just a pathway for healing for a couple of years, and then I started racing because I just loved being on my bike so much and I thought, one day, well maybe I’ll try to race," Bausch said. "It’s been a journey that I would have never guessed that I would have been on, and definitely would never have guessed the Olympics. But here we are.”
Team USA with Jennie Reed, Dotsie Bausch, and Sarah Hammer (L-R), competes to take a silver medal in the women's team pursuit final during the Track Cycling World Championships in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, March 24, 2011.
Bausch is a seven-time U.S. National Champion in cycling and a two-time Pan American gold medalist on the track. In 2010, she and teammates Sarah Hammer and Lauren Tamayo set a world record at the Pan American Championships in Mexico in women’s team pursuit.
The trio will reunite in London, where women’s team pursuit will debut as an Olympic event.
Bausch, part of a family with strong U.S. military ties, is honored to be representing her country.
“My sister, who I’m very close with and who I have a business with, was an officer in the Air Force and served a tour in Iraq," Bausch said. "So it’s got a really special meaning in my heart to wear the colors - the red, white and blue - and the flag, and what it means to be American from my sister and my family defending our country.”
Although she is immersed in cycling, Bausch has other goals too. She serves as a mentor and offers support to women trying to overcome severe eating disorders in hopes that they return to a healthy lifestyle.
“I always say to the women and girls that I’m able to help, ‘I’m just someone that’s walked in your shoes, that’s really all I am.’ And by just being open and honest in that way and just letting them know that I just get, you know, the horror of what they’re dealing with, I’ve been able to have a lot of them open up to me,” Bausch said.
Dotsie Bausch’s comeback story is truly inspiring. She aims to add another chapter to it in London.