It was the early 1980s, and the International Olympic Committee had been doing drug testing for some time. Though the National College Athletic Association hadn’t yet implemented similar measures, there was talk of it possibly coming. It was against this backdrop that Martin walked into the college wrestling room and handed me a news article, saying, “Hey, Howard, you’ve got to read this.”
We were warming up but hadn’t yet started practice, and since Coach wasn’t there, I sat down to read. I had just begun when Coach walked in.
“Howard, are you too good to join us for warm-ups?”
“Sorry, Coach,” I replied. “Martin just handed me something to read.”
“What’s it about?” Coach asked.
Martin laughed. “Oh, you would love it. It’s about an athlete that had some problems with drug testing.”
“Well, maybe we should all hear it,” Coach said. “Howard, read it out loud.”
All the wrestlers gathered around and sat cross-legged on the mat, and I started to read.
The article was about athletes on a team that had come under suspicion of drug use, causing the entire team to face suspension. To avoid such a severe penalty, the coach cut a deal allowing an independent doctor to test the athletes for drugs. Only the athletes who tested positive would be suspended from the team, and the rest could finish out the season. The coach agreed to live by whatever decision the doctor made.
However, when the doctor’s list was posted, the star athlete’s name was flagged for drug use. The athlete was livid. He said he knew for sure that there was no way his urine sample could have had drugs in it. The coach, taking the side of the athlete, insisted on a hearing, demanding the doctor explain his reasoning on the matter.
The doctor agreed, and a formal hearing board was convened to determine whether the doctor’s decision would be upheld. After the hearing started, the athlete was given the floor. He insisted he had the highest character and knew his urine sample could not have had any drugs in it. He went so far as to claim his suspension could be nothing more than prejudice on the part of the doctor.
The coach was then given a chance to speak. He expounded on this great athlete’s virtues, claiming he knew the athlete had the highest moral values, both in competition and in life. The coach said that is why he had called for the hearing. He said he knew something had to be wrong with the doctor’s judgment in the matter. He even said he felt the doctor was possibly guilty of malpractice.
Finally, it was the doctor’s turn. When the board members asked the doctor what drug or drugs he had found in the athlete’s urine sample, the doctor said he hadn’t found any.
“Then why in heaven’s name did you suspend him from competition?” the coach demanded.
“Because,” the doctor said, “he has a condition that makes competing somewhat impossible for the rest of the athletic season.”
“And just what condition would that be?” a board member asked.
The doctor turned to look directly at the athlete and the coach as he replied. “He is pregnant.” Everyone in the room seemed stunned by the revelation as the doctor continued. “I realized, of course, it couldn’t have really been his urine used for the sample. I debated disqualifying him from any further competition for cheating on the drug test, but I decided instead to only disqualify him for the rest of the season for pregnancy. If the coach would prefer, we can switch it to a permanent disqualification.”
At that point, the coach and the athlete chose to withdraw their disputation of the doctor’s decision. And that is how a male athlete was disqualified from competition because of pregnancy.
When I finished reading the article, Martin laughed and turned to Coach. “Hey, Coach, if one of us did that, would it disqualify us from competing?”
“If you put me in a situation like that,” Coach growled, “when I got hold of you, you would be disqualified from living.”