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Amid the snickering and, well, more snickering, surrounding Onterrio Smith's possession of a fake plastic penis designed to dupe drug tests, one key point is being ignored.
Athletes are duping drug testers with fake plastic penises.
Look, we can understand injecting THG, a sophisticated synthetic steroid designed to be undetectable. Ditto for using Human Grown Hormone, which requires an invasive, impractical blood test that leagues are loathe to employ. Even inexpensive masking agents presumably have a modicum of scientific know-how behind them.
But really breaking out the Whizzinator?
Strapping on a bogus organ?
Stuffing one's shorts with a glorified garden hose?
Disappointing. Very disappointing. Frankly, the whole concept seems low-tech and low-rent, like swapping the CGI-created alien armies of "Star Wars" for a couple hundred sweaty, suffocating extras in Hannibal Smith-worthy rubber lizard suits. Five years into the new millennium, and athletes still depend on pedestrian stage props to disguise their drug habits?
Clearly, we're in the throes of a silent national crisis.
Just as clearly, we can do better.
Ours is a nation that put a man on the moon, existing in a wired world that disseminates topless photos of Paris Hilton faster than you can say "hacked sidekick." Of course we can do better. We have the technology. The need is glaring. We simply must summon the will the old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves kind of determination that produced both the Manhattan Project and not one but two Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez movies to tackle the task at hand.
Assuming, of course, we can wash said hands afterward.
To borrow from JFK: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for Onterrio Smith.
After all, the Whizzinator is more than a musty, outdated product. It's a shot across our research-and-development bow, the Sputnik of our era. A national fake plastic penis crash program is in order. As is, the product is inelegant and prone to error, much like the genuine article following a dozen beers. Too much can go wrong.
For the sake of argument, suppose you're a running back for the Minnesota Vikings. Also for the sake of argument, suppose you really, really enjoy marijuana, so much so that you've flunked multiple previous drug tests going back to your college days.
Still, you love money. Football, too. You're not intrigued by Australian campgrounds or tribal medicine. You just want the Man off your back, out of your black-lit room and a safe distance from your extra-large bag of Fritos. So you decide to try the Whizzinator.
The official Whizzinator home page touts the device in reality, a fake plastic penis attached to a bladder pouch and adjustable jock strap as comfortable. The Web site also recommends cramming urine-warming heat packs in one's pants, which sounds decidedly uncomfortable, and a little too reminiscent of Lil' Jon:
Drug tester: Thanks for the sample. I see you've filled the cup.
Testee: That's not urine that's sweat! To the window! To the wall!
The site goes on to claim that the Whizzinator is easy to use. Au contraire. Admittedly, this is not our area of expertise, but the contraption seems quite complicated. First, you have to mix clean, dehydrated urine (sold separately, like AA batteries) with warm water, then inject the solution into the bladder.
Note that this can be tricky, especially if you're used to blindly injecting things into your rear. Or having home run-hitting teammates do it for you.
Then you have to put the device on. The site recommends adjusting the Whizzinator so that "the end of the prosthesis" lines up with "the end of your penis," thereby making it "easier to find." Sound advice, especially if you carry keys or a cell phone. But what if the device is so darn comfortable that you forget all about it, go fishing for a stick of gum and end up holding a fake plastic penis in the middle of the dugout?
The Whizzinator home page goes on to show a model unzipping but not unbuttoning his pants. In real life, this is grossly ill-advised, given the awkwardness involved and the potential for injury from the zipper's steely teeth.
No wonder the Web site emphasizes a need for practice.
To their credit, the Whizzinator's creators offer colored models for white, tan, brown, black and "Latino" users. Problem is, this is little help if you get the wrong shade delivered in the mail, and less help if you happen to look like Michael Jackson.
(Besides tan? Down there? Honestly, that's sorta sketchy, and probably painful.)
For all these reasons and more, our athletes need something better. We owe them something better. America spent billions on stealth technology. Couldn't that be applied to a new generation of sleek, radar-evading fake plastic penises that can pass through an airport scanner with nary a peep? Should the military's bounty be limited to moronic upcoming Jamie Foxx flicks?
For that matter, why not fashion the urine bladder to look like something ubiquitous? Such as an iPod? Creative camouflage could make having a bag of pre-warmed reconstituted pee strapped to your body appear slightly less suspicious. Slightly.
Along the same lines, the Whizzinator requires users to unclip a urine valve with one hand while holding the prothesis with the other. Talk about archaic. This is the digital age. At least make the valve cell phone-activated, so that athletes can pretend to be on the line while they're fumbling through their tests.
Again, it's all about creating a credible illusion.
Building a better fake plastic penis isn't just morally commendable. It's economically necessary. With baseball now screening for steroids, the market for test-thwarting prosthetics is expanding exponentially.
Who will seize the moment? Right now, as you read, Chinese scientists are toiling day and night to create a cheaper, more advanced alternative. Will we dare we fall behind?
Will our children live as second-class citizens in the new world order, dangling outdated Whizzinators from empty pockets as better-equipped foreign competitors gobble up all the good drug-tested sports jobs?
The answer is up to us. All of us. It isn't too late.
Someday, perhaps, science will create a device so sophisticated, so advanced, that athletes will be able to pass tests with ease, then turn to their observers and ask: Was it good for you?
Patrick Hruby is a sports writer for The Washington Times.