John Miller, a Belgian-American journalist, and a player/coach for the Brussels Kangaroos, is in his fourth year of writing Old World Pastime, a take on baseball as lived in 21th century Europe.
In 12 years as a working journalist, I have always avoided writing about my urine. You’d think that in the Age of Overshare it would have been fair game at some point. But no. My private parts have stayed private.
Until Saturday, when I was made to let a man watch me pee. From the front.
It was a drug test. It will be, I believe, negative, unless Trappist beers have been added to substances banned.
After the Kangaroos’s 6-0 win over the Lions of Beveren, a suburb of Antwerp, a pleasant sports doctor named Stefaan walked up to our team.
Let’s see some ID, said Jimmy, our coach. Good for Jimmy. Nobody plays doctor with his players without showing ID.
Stefaan had already picked three positions. Catchers, firstbasemen and secondbasemen from each team were to be tested.
Our secondbaseman, 16 years old, did not feel nature’s call. He said so. Stefaan’s advice: “Just drink a beer, kid.” I had heard that before. In 2006, I was too dehydrated to pee for a post-game drug test and the doctor told me to drink beer. I had three Jupilers on an empty stomach, took the test, then got in my car and drove home.
On Saturday, I was behind the dish, so it was off to the closed locker room.
Stefaan was a chatterbox. “Where are you from?…Oh, I vacationed in New York last year…Ran the marathon…Have been to Chicago, too…You like it here?”
To Davy, our firstbaseman who went after me, he would throw in some free political peanuts. “Can’t believe you can’t order bread in a bakery in Wemmel in Dutch.” Wemmel is a Brussels suburb where a bunch of people speak French. It’s in Flanders, so that drives the Flemings bananas. Ah, Belgium.
Stefaan took my ID and handed me papers to fill out. I am drug testee number 1921278 of the Flemish sports administration.
He handed me a plastic bottle and motioned me toward the shower. “I have to watch, because you could have a wire attached to you to put in somebody else’s urine, you know.”
OK, I said.
“You have a bucket there, in case you want to keep going after you’ve filled the cup.”
OK, I said.
I filled the cup, ignoring the stranger focusing intently on my mid-section. I am happy to report that there is nothing more to share about these 30 seconds of my life.
The cup was closed, but I had some left in the tank. I moved toward the bucket to finish the job. He kept staring. I pulled up my pants and resolved to empty the rest of my bladder later.
OK, I said, I’m done.
We walked back to the table.
“We need to measure the wateriness,” he said.
What if it’s too watery?
“Then you need to stay and pee again.”
What if I have a dinner to get to?
“And you leave? Then it’s a positive test, and you’ll have six months or a year suspension.”
OK, I said.
Stefaan stuck a drop in a machine that looked like a flashlight and peered in one end. Thankfully, my pee was just thick enough, and I was sparred an evening of steak and beer in Beveren.
Stefaan showed me two bottles, one labeled “A” and one “B”. He poured three-fifths of my sample into A and the rest into the B.
“We’re going to test the A and put the B in the fridge.” If the A is positive, he continued, “you and your attorney will have the right to examine the B.”
I am now an athlete with a B urine sample sitting in a fridge somewhere in Flanders. Like Floyd Landis when he was fighting a positive test after winning the Tour de France.
I filled out some more paperwork, and then was allowed to leave.
What do I think about all of this?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for testing for steroids. Not sure about pot, which is what gets a lot of ballplayers in Belgium suspended.
Seriously, do you know what would happen to NCAA baseball if they tested for pot?
I don’t think the 34-year-old weekend warrior catcher for the Brussels Kangaroos needs a B sample the way Cadel Evans does. I don’t have the cash to pay a lawyer, even if they get me for HGH, Amphetamines and Methandrostenolone.
And I certainly don’t think the penalties should be stiff. Suspend an amateur athlete for six months and he’ll just quit.
And I will never write about my urine again. Promise.
I listen to all kinds of stories at firstname.lastname@example.org