DTN (Aug. 29, 2019)
It’s an old joke:
This guy takes a drug test and when the results come back his employer says,
I’ve got good news and bad news.
What’s the good news?
You passed your drug test.
Great! What’s the bad news?
Funny. Except for professional American basketball player D.J. Cooper it was no laughing matter. When his mandatory urine test proved he was pregnant the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) banned him from playing for two years.
Cooper had carved out a comfortable career as an itinerant American baller playing for A-list international teams. A few years ago, when he was 23, Cooper, applied to become a ringer for the Bosnian national team where a player of his caliber would have been treated like a king. When they reasonably asked him for a urine sample he readily complied. Anti-doping tests for international sports do a much deeper dive than common workplace urinalysis, and a closer look at Cooper’s pee showed increased levels of human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)—a hormone usually found only in pregnant women. Everyone except Cooper had a good laugh just before the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) stepped in and slapped the embarrassed baller with a two year worldwide ban on playing completive sports. Godless heathens who refused to recognize a miracle, FIBA officials surmised instead that Cooper substituted his girlfriend’s urine for his own in order to pass the test. Ironically, neither his glowing girlfriend nor D.J. were aware she was expecting until the anti-doping agency gave them the news.
Congratulations, You’re fired.
Donnell Cooper started out in Chicago at a scrappy 5’10” and a lightweight 140, but his natural skillet was so plainly obvious that ESPN.com named him the 30th best high school player in the country in 2009. By the time he graduated he was six foot tall, closing in on a solid 180 and courted by top-flight colleges like Baylor. But he chose to play for mid-level Ohio University instead where he became the only player in the history of college basketball to rack up 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals throughout his amateur career!
As the 2013 NBA draft approached, ESPN’s basketball analyst Jay Bilas called Cooper one of the best players in the game. “[He] can score, he can dish… and always seems to make the right decision,” Bilas said.”He’s among the best point guards in the country.” Despite the serious props, Cooper was passed over in both rounds of the draft and suddenly, surprisingly, found himself looking for a job. Following the road well-cut by thousands of American ball players before him, D.J. turned his sights towards Europe and Asia where he was welcomed as a rising star. For the first few years he bounced back and forth on teams in France, Russia and Greece before he finally settled in France to play for AS Monaco. Life was good. In 2018 he was named the Most Valuable Player in the French Leaders Cup.
In 2014 Cooper applied for Bosnian citizenship so he could play on the national team as a “naturalized citizen.” At first, he was scheduled to hit the Balkan court in 2015, but a series of stops and starts unrelated to this story kept delaying his debut. Last year he was working for AS Monaco when the anti-doping agency told him he was with child and FIBA called bullshit and the ban kicked in. Absent a real miracle, Cooper quickly cited “family reasons” for his immediate departure from the France. He will be eligible to play again on July 24, 2020, but, at this time, it is not known if he plans to return to the game.