Olympic cyclist and dedicated activist, Dotsie Bausch, is a true champion for animals!
Now, Dotsie shares her inspiring story as a vegan athlete, and how she cycled her way to a silver medal. Read on!
You’ve triumphed through many challenges, from your battle years ago with an eating disorder to achieving your Olympic victory, inspiring people nationwide along the way. Can you tell us about your journey?
My experience as an Olympic cyclist, which included a silver medal victory in the 2012 Games, was 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 a 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 training and so much more, eating no meat whatsoever.
How did your compassion for animals come into play during this time, and what led you to begin fueling yourself with plant protein?
My ride to the Olympic cycling podium 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.
I was compelled to go meatless after seeing an exposé about the systematic cruelty of factory farming. Horrified, I watched pigs and cows beaten, blinded, prodded, and burned. I immediately felt disgust toward what I had witnessed, and I was both humbled and ashamed, realizing that I was a mediator of this brutality.
I decided that night that I would no longer support an industry that senselessly kills, traumatizes, and punishes innocent animals, who are all capable of feeling and loving. With the same brand of determination that propelled me as an athlete, I made the choice to never eat meat again – no matter how hard it would be.
You were asked to give a TED Talk about your path to the Olympics. Why did you use this opportunity to talk about compassionate plant-based eating, and what did it feel like stepping out onto that stage?
When TEDx asked me to speak at their “Icons, Geniuses and Mavericks” TEDx Edition, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I knew they probably thought I would tell my Olympic story, and although that story is filled with struggles, disappointments, and pain, many other Olympians can tell you that they have overcome overwhelming odds.
If I was to be even considered an “Icon,” “Genius,” or “Maverick” (of which “Maverick” I identify with the most), I needed to present an idea that was worthy of this categorization. “Olympic-Level Compassion” was worthy.
You coined that term—“Olympic-Level Compassion.” Can you explain this concept?
Everyone is aware of the massiveness and magnitude of the Olympic Games and, most specifically, winning an Olympic medal. The physical and mental level, or standard, that an athlete has to reach to do what less than 1% of the population has achieved is a pinnacle of greatness that has an almost mystifying likeness.
My goal was to take people on a journey of what it would mean and what it would feel like to experience and display compassion in their lives at this level of greatness. If we ALL exemplified compassion on an Olympic level in our lives, can you even fathom what the world would look like?
How do you think vegan eating has impacted you as an athlete?
Soon after switching to plant-based eating, 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.
Beyond the physical changes, though, was an emotional shift that fuels me in a much deeper way. By choosing compassion over cruelty 3-4 times a day, I am infused with a sense of calm, focus, happiness, and beauty that I never experienced as a meat-eater. Knowing I am single-handedly curbing cruelty to animals by NOT paying into the devastating, destructive system that abuses them feels so right, and to be honest, much like a “Maverick”! We can ALL be mavericks every single day!
Do you have words of wisdom for other athletes who are exploring the idea of plant-based eating?
GO FOR IT! You won’t believe the rejuvenation and repair that occur in a quarter of the time on plants rather than meat and dairy. It’s mind-blowing. By creating a compassionate, loving relationship with the food that fuels you to be strong and resilient, you will feel a sense of purpose behind your food choices, and of fueling yourself like you’ve never experienced before.
You recently reached out to Papa John’s CEO and fellow cyclist John Schnatter to encourage the chain, based in your hometown of Louisville, to offer vegan cheese. Why is this important to you?
It is critical that we get one of the world’s top pizza chains to offer vegan cheese, because this plant-based option would be accessible to millions of consumers.
Offering vegan cheese will inspire questions as to what vegan cheese is, what it’s made of, why it matters, why we need an alternative to “regular” cheese, and what’s wrong with cow’s milk cheese.
There are a few theories about how to change human behavior, and it’s by either starting something new or eliminating something old. By offering vegan cheese, many people can start something new! A new pathway to health, most obviously, but most importantly, in my opinion, a beginning to the end of the immense suffering of 264 million dairy cows. By getting Papa John’s to offer vegan cheese, we create a catalyst for further change.
How did Compassion Champs come about? What is your organization’s mission?
Compassion Champs was born from my intense desire to create a place where athletes and non-athletes alike can learn how to incorporate compassion into their daily nutrition. We are working to modify the relationship people create with their food and move people toward compassionate food choices, showing them how this simple change in their diet can, over time, change their whole life and help them develop into the very best version of themselves.
We do a lot of our work via videos of people’s powerful personal stories of compassionate change and choices. We are debuting a short documentary in the new year that follows the anatomy of a “Humanely Raised” farm animal rescue. It is educational and adventure-based, and I believe it will rock people’s minds on humane farming and that myth. We are also featured in the upcoming (early 2018 release) James Cameron executive-produced film, The Game Changers, that I believe will change millions of minds when it comes to eating animals.
How can your fans join you in spreading “Olympic-Level Compassion” and be champions for animals in their everyday lives?
I hope my fans will also continue to follow my work with Compassion Over Killing, and get active by asking Papa John’s for vegan cheese.