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WRY TOAST: Yellow even tougher to nail than gold

BY EDIE GROSS

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

I ENJOY the Olympics.

The pageantry, the tears, the pocket-size Chinese gymnasts.

However, the Games always make me a little nervous.

It’s not so much the athletic events, though there’s something about badminton that sets my teeth on edge. It’s always fun till someone takes a 250 mph shuttlecock to the eye, right?

But it isn’t the threat of a misfired ping–pong ball, a wobble on the balance beam or a face plant on the far side of a hurdle that really makes me sweat.

It’s the event that goes on behind the scenes, the one involving thousands of tiny plastic cups.

The dreaded drug tests.

Let me be clear: I’m fine with the concept of testing athletes and punishing those caught inhaling, injecting, snorting, swallowing, swigging, swilling or otherwise embedding within one’s carcass that which ought not be embedded prior to fair and balanced athletic competition.

For me, the thing that’s insurmountable is the paralyzing performance anxiety associated with simply being asked to urinate in a cup.

You see, like millions of Americans, I suffer from the crippling inability to pee on demand.

I first became aware of the problem in college when I interviewed for a job at the Tallahassee Democrat.

It was a two-day ordeal that included a reporting assignment, a grammar and spelling test, and a whole lot of handshaking, all of which I was prepared for.

But on our way to lunch on the first day, an editor informed me that we’d be stopping off at the lab for a mandatory drug test.

I figured they’d take some blood and I’d be on my way in five minutes. Instead, the nurse handed me a little plastic cup and pointed me toward the bathroom.

Problem was, I didn’t have to go. I ran the tap and day-dreamed about white-water rafting for about 10 minutes before emerging shamefaced and empty-cupped.

“How about if I drink a lot of water at lunch and try again?” I suggested.

The editor agreed, but I could tell he thought I was a junkie, albeit one with impeccable grammar skills.

No matter, I thought. After lunch, I’ll provide a sample so heavy, they’ll need a Ukrainian weightlifter to hoist it.

Alas, my post-lunch effort was as fruitless as the first, despite the four glasses of water I’d chugged.

My bladder, it seemed, was simply not inspired to produce anything.

Since it was a two-day interview, I suggested that I return to the lab the following morning, after having stored up about 18 hours worth of donor material.

The editor agreed, though by now I’m sure he thought I was a Colombian drug lord.

Sure enough, the next morning, after having given my bladder plenty of advance notice, I shuffled cross-legged into the lab and turned in a sample large enough to heat an Olympic-size pool.

Still, I didn’t get the job, probably because my inability to pee on demand cast doubt on my character—though it’s also possible that my sample showed evidence of heavy and prolonged Ramen noodle usage.

Don’t judge. You were 22 once, too.

I’m not sure why I have this problem. Maybe I’m intimidated by the tremendous hand–eye coordination needed to correctly collect a sample. I mean, you mess that up and the French judge is guaranteed to make an example out of you.

Or maybe it’s the thousands of family road trips I endured as a child, which conditioned me to “hold it” until either my father spotted gas cheap enough to warrant pulling over or, more likely, the rapture occurred.

I’m certainly not concerned with any test results. I rely heavily on performance-enhancing substances, but the last time I checked, neither caffeine nor nougat was banned.

Some athletes argue that the list of banned drugs is so large, it’s almost impossible to avoid them. I mean, you try keeping every drop of methylenedioxymethamphetamine or bendroflumethiazide out of your diet!

Five Olympians were sent home from London early for failing drug tests. I felt a little bad for American judo fighter Nicholas Delpopolo, who was expelled this week after testing positive for marijuana.

He said he accidentally ate a baked good containing the drug. Even if it wasn’t accidental, I doubt marijuana gave him any competitive advantage—unless, in addition to holds and throws, athletes are also judged on their Cheetos consumption.

Still, he should hold his head high.

The fact that he was able to complete the pee-on-demand event is more than some of us could do.

Edie Gross: 540/374-5428

egross@freelancestar.com

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