A Sobering Experience
Forgive my candor, but I write today about my pee.
You see, like our canine and feline friends, after every pee, and poop for that matter, I inspect the contents of my toilet bowl. Mind, you I don’t stick my head all the way in there to put my nose right up to it, but I do give a good look and take in its aroma. I do this for this same reason dogs, cats, and I should imagine other mammals do, chiefly, as a gauge of my health. Bodily excrement says a lot about the state the state of one’s health, and from the yellow and brown stuff, I can get a good idea about if I am well hydrated and have sufficient fiber in my diet, among other things.
Then, the other day, something odd happened. My pee didn’t smell they way it should. I knew instantly that something was off, but what? I stood above the bowl with furrowed brow, and exhorted all the powers of my olfactory. Like a sommelier detecting the flavor profile of a Pinot Noir, I inhaled attempting to distill what had tainted my pristine pee.
I was flummoxed.
My first thoughts went to asparagus, which always adds it own particular bouquet. However, I counted back to realize that I had not eaten any for four days, so it couldn’t be that. I went to bed with the mystery unsolved.
The following morning, upon returning to the loo, I duly peed, and again my nose was accosted by this offending aroma. Determined, I took a deep whiff, and processed it through the data bank in my head. The olfactory nerve is closely tied to the amygdala and the hippocampus parts of the brain where much of our long term memory is stored. My pee had smelled like this before, but when, and for what reason.
Some hours later, it hit my like a ton of bricks. My pee smelled like it would if I had taken a dose of antibiotics.
How could it be? I had not taken any antibiotics, nor medication of any kind for nearly three years, but I distinctly recalled the smell of my pee during a round of penicillin to clear up an infection before having some teeth ripped out.
I soon realized when and where I had been unintentionally doped.
I don’t eat out often, or at least not as often as many people I know, and when I do, I make every reasonable effort to eat healthy, wholesome food. At home, all meats and produce are strictly organic, or at least all-natural. (For those who don’t know the difference, foods can only claim to be organic if every step in the chain is certified organic, whereas natural means that the primary food product has been raised or grown without the aid of pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones, etc, but the soil or food from which it was nourished may not have been without these additives.) Which leads me to my lunch out.
It happened at a popular and otherwise pretty good ( 3 out of 5 stars on yelp.com ) restaurant in Santa Monica, California. I ordered a turkey / avocado club sandwich on toasted sourdough and a pale ale to drink. I was proud of myself for abstaining on the french fries. Aside from that, other than water, organic oatmeal, fruit and some leftover, homemade spaghetti and meatballs made with all natural ingredients, I ate nothing else during the day in question.
So how convinced am I that I had been unintentionally doped with a healthy dose of antibiotic courtesy of the turkey who gave his life for my lunch? Well, I have no scientific data to back it up. I did some research to try and discern how prevalent the use of antibiotics is in poultry production and was unable to find a specific number; however, the FDA recently published guidelines to ween farmers off of the use of antibiotics on their livestock. The FDA is motivated by the fact that the population as a whole evidenced developing an immunity to antibiotics through food consumption, the results of which could pose an unintended health risk in the form of higher infection rates and the inability to treat them in the acute phase. I also learned that 70% of all antibiotics in the U.S. are used in the non-theraputic treatment of livestock. I take it, then, that my hypothesis, while unproven, is highly probable. It made me wonder what else I have eaten without my knowledge, despite being more careful than the average bear.
While this has nothing to do directly with Alberto Contador, Li Fuyu or any other riders who claim to have been unintentionally doped by innocently consuming a food or supplement, it does serve as reminder of what we non-professional athletes seemingly take for granted every time we eat or drink. It highlights how so many years of hard work, suffering and sacrifice can be wasted by just one bite of something tainted. Imagine the next time you go out for dinner, you arrive to work the following morning to find a Controlle Dopage awaits you at your desk. Though you have done nothing intentionally wrong, you could be fired from your job and your reputation publicly, and forever, sullied because of a turkey / avocado club.
For me at least, it was a sobering experience.
By the way, I consulted WADA’s 2010 list of banned substances and antibiotics are not on them.