Kissing Bandits

Way back in the glory days of 2009, French tennis player Richard Gasquet was competing at a tournament in Miami. He didn’t win the title.[1] During his stay, he sought a good time in a city famous for supplying good times, and went to a Miami nightclub to hear a fellow Frenchman ply his trade on the turntables. Amid the pulsating sounds of electronic music, Gasquet met “Pamela.” Her story is unknown, but their affair was legendary.

For only a month after Gasquet’s brief tryst with Pamela, he tested positive for cocaine use. Gasquet was devastated. Sure he and Pamela had made out, but they hadn’t done any drugs together, so how could this have happened? He searched and searched for an explanation since failing a drug test could carry with it a two-year suspension. When in doubt, cherche la femme.

According to Gasquet, the only possible explanation for his positive drug test was his brief romance with “Pamela.” While kissing on the dance floor, the cocaine must have traveled from her mouth to his mouth and made its way into his bloodstream. Surely, this “Pamela” was the real agent of infection and Gasquet merely the victim of being a passionate Frenchman in the Magic City.

Gasquet appealed his suspension using the Pamela Defense and try as the International Tennis Federation might to track down this “Pamela” to get her side of the story, she could not be found. Logically, the Pamela Defense held up in court, and Gasquet’s sentence was overturned, effectively reducing his suspension from two years to six months.

This seemed like an isolated incident, nothing to get anxious about. Then, Canadian pole vaulter Shawn Barber sought some “stress relief” before the Canadian Olympic trials in 2016 and so placed an ad on Craigslist for a “sexual encounter of some sort” with a woman who was “drug and disease free.” I now quote from “The Matter of an Anti-Doping Violation by Shawn Barber”:

His inquiry led him to a meeting in a hotel room with a man and woman he had never met. The athlete was offered a drink which he declined because he had not seen the drink being mixed and did not know what was in it. He did not know that the women had used cocaine that evening. He asked for someone drug-free, disease free, and professional. He had sexual relations with the woman while the man waited in another room. Their encounter lasted about 30 minutes. He kissed her off and on during their encounter and when he kissed her he did not sense any unusual taste in her mouth.

In spite of nothing being amiss with their kiss, Barber tested positive for cocaine, and no logical reason could explain his test’s result other than that the woman had ingested the drug before their intermittent kissing and love making, during which time the cocaine traveled into his bloodstream. So, kissing once again spells doom for a male athlete, even with a partner who’s supposed to be a “professional.” And once again the explanation held up in court: Barber was spared a two-year ban from the sport once the authorities determined “that it was impossible to have taken this amount of cocaine intentionally.” Thankfully, reason tends to prevail in these cases, but one can never be too sure. After all, two cases is a mere coincidence; it takes three to make a pattern, so there’s still nothing to get alarmed about.

Until now. American sprinter Gil Roberts, who won gold in Rio 2016 as part of the 4 x 400 relay team, recently tested positive for probenecid, a drug on the US Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances. His B-sample, another urine sample taken to reduce the chances of a false positive, tested positive for a masking agent.

But Roberts denies ever having taken the drug, so how could this have happened? Two words: “passionate kissing.” According to the report given by the arbitration tribunal in Rodgers’ appeal, his girlfriend of two years, Alex Salazar, had recently visited India with her family. While in India, Salazar suffered a sinus infection and “her step-father, who spoke Hindi, took her to a local ‘chemist’ to secure medication.” This “chemist,” according to Salazar, did not run a very neat establishment: she describes it as “makeshift” and “messy” and notes that the “chemist” wore “street clothes.” Red flags abound!

This “chemist” “prescribed” Moxylong, one of whose active ingredients is probenecid, and because the sinus infection affected her ability to swallow whole pills, the drug was procured in caplets that she would break open so as to ingest the power. She returned home to her boyfriend, and, to make up for lost time, “whenever they were together, they kissed frequently and passionately.” Well, concerned reader, you can probably imagine what happens next:

On March 24, 2017, the date of the drug test, Ms. Salazar arrived at Roberts’ apartment near noon; they kissed and “chilled out.” Around 1:00 or 1:30 pm, she went into the kitchen to take her medicine. She did not tell Roberts what she was doing and he did not see her take the medicine. She opened the capsule, poured the contents in her mouth, then washed it down with water. Shortly thereafter she found Roberts and started kissing him. Roberts could not count the number of times they kissed between 1:00 pm and the doping control officer’s arrival.  

Ah, the passion of lovers so enthralled they don’t even count the number of times they kiss! And these are lovers so in tune with one another that they can even kiss and just “chill out” afterward! The tragedy, I’m afraid, is one not even Pamela could imagine, could she be located, for the probenicid (from the Moxylong) had made its way from Salazar’s mouth to Roberts’ mouth, infecting his blood stream with this nefarious substance. If only the lovers were capable of kissing less “passionately”!

Luckily, the United States Anti-Doping Agency is comprised of rational men and women who understand that “passion” should not be punished, that being in love with a partner with a sinus infection is no crime at all. On July 12th, Roberts’ ban was overturned, and with the initial decision reversed he is now free to compete at the 2017 World Championships in London.

But these three cases should provoke nothing if not fear and trembling. I shudder to think how many male heterosexual[2] athletes are currently in danger: how are they to know what their lovers have ingested? What if the PED craze isn’t about athletes seeking to improve their performance, but about passionate, vulnerable men who encounter the wrong drug-addled women at the wrong time?

These stories of male athletes and drug-crazed women prompt an important question: what of female athletes? Maria Sharapova, five-time Grand Slam tennis champion, tested positive for meldonium, a substance recently banned by the World Anti-doping Agency because of its potential to allow the blood to carry more oxygen. Sharapova blamed her positive result on her “magnesium deficiency” for which she had been taking meldonium (aka mildronate) for ten years prior to it appearing on WADA’s list of banned substances. But WADA saw Sharapova as an irresponsible athlete – ignorance of the law is no excuse, after all – and she was rightfully banned for fifteen months. She served her suspension and has recently returned to the tour. In spite of her positive test, no romantic partners were to blame, and her fellow tour mates took some amount pleasure in her downfall calling her “[a]rrogant, conceited and cold” — in other words, not the kind of person who would engage in “off and on” or “passionate” kissing.

But perhaps, the cautionary tale of Marion Jones provides us with a better idea of the potent cocktail of love, deceit, and revenge that swirls together when women use PEDs. Jones, you’ll remember, won five gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, only to have them stripped from her because, after years of denying that she had ever taken PEDs, she finally admitted to having taken EPO (Erythropoietin), making her guilty of both cheating on the track and lying to the public in the press and in the courtroom. Jones only came clean (so to speak) after documentary evidence connected to her to known steroid factory BALCO and after her ex-husband, shot-putter C.J. Hunter, testified against her, claiming he had seen her inject EPO into her abdomen in Sydney. Jones was stripped of her medals and served six months in jail for perjuring herself. Also relevant is the fact that only years before her punishment and confession, Jones sprinted to divorce court and to the moral high ground when Hunter tested positive for steroids as she blamed his steroid use and deceitfulness on the dissolution of their marriage. Such an intricate tale of sex, drugs, duplicity, and vengeance contrasts with the victimization of the men caught off-guard in earnest expressions of passions, and we should be wary of the Marion Joneses of the world and the stickiness of the web of lies they spin.

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In the plant kingdom, the berries of the belladona, which translates as “beautiful woman,” are among the most lethal if taken in generous quantities. As in all matters pertaining to love and beauty, the Italians know best — and they also know to associate women’s beauty with harmful substances you don’t want running through your bloodstream. Whether it’s from a “Pamela,” a “professional woman, or a girlfriend of two years, as the evidence above suggests, must we not just protect our hearts from women, but our bloodstreams as well?

Thankfully, the federations and governing bodies understand this persistent threat to male bloodstream purity and exert their power to overturn wrongful and hasty decisions against passionate men and to deliver bans and penalties against the female athletes for compromising the integrity of their sports. After all, if we’re going to value honesty and fair competition in sports, as these cases show, then it’s important that men not be held responsible for their passions, but that women be held accountable for what they put in their bodies — and what they put into other people’s bodies.

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  1. [1]Gasquet isn’t exactly a household name, but he’s no slouch either: he’s risen as high as seventh in the world.
  2. [2]Barber has since come out as gay, but at the time of in infraction he engaged in heterosexual intercourse.

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