Pro sports is full of unusual superstitions and rituals. In 2008, then-New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi revealed that he and his teammates wore gold thongs to break out of slumps. Former Jaguars defensive tackle John Henderson would pump himself up before every game day by asking a staffer to slap him in the face, according to FanBuzz.
Yet those examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the strangest and grossest superstitions involve a certain bodily fluid: urine. That’s right, numerous athletes have had bizarre relationships with their own pee. Here we look at three forms of this surprisingly widespread superstition.
Using urine to harden hands
Over his 17 years as a journeyman MLB outfielder, Moises Alou had a respectable, if not quite Hall of Fame-worthy, career. In 2004, he revealed an unusual secret to his success. Alou told an interviewer that he regularly urinated on his hands. His theory was that the urine toughened up his skin, making it more resistant to cuts, bruises, and other injuries.
Yet skincare experts were quick to point out that, if anything, urine could soften the skin. Then again, Alou batted an impressive .303 over the course of his career. Moreover, he was one of a small number of players who didn’t wear batting gloves — a feat requiring extreme toughness. Perhaps there was something to his claim after all.
Urinating on the field
Another strange superstition involves urinating directly on the playing field. This practice seems to be especially common in the soccer world. Barry Fry managed Birmingham City, an English Football Club, for several years in the mid-’90s. During a stretch when the team struggled, Fry became convinced that evil spirits were lurking around their playing field.
His solution was to urinate at all four corners of the field. Unfortunately, the superstition didn’t pay off. The club continued to struggle, and Fry was eventually fired. Bizarre as his superstition may seem, it pales by comparison with that of retired goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea. According to The Guardian, Goycochea developed a ritual involving urinating on the field before every single penalty kick taken against him.
Drinking their own urine
Here’s where we start to get too gross to believe. Yet a surprising number of athletes in different sports have subscribed to the notion that drinking their own urine boosts performance. The practice made headlines most recently in 2015 when then-Houston Texans offensive lineman Ben Jones confessed to having consumed a cup of his own urine to win a bet.
When asked about the incident, reports The LA Times, Jones replied with a shrug, “Whatever makes the team better.” For the record, the Texans went 9-7 that season and lost wild-card game against the Kansas City Chiefs. So, presumably, Jones’ urine drinking didn’t have affect team performance.
A number of pro fighters have also admitted to drinking their own urine. In 2009, now-retired Mexican boxer Joan Manuel Márquez said he’d done it “for the past six or seven fights,” according to ESPN. Did it help? Well, Márquez put together an impressive 56-7-1 career. But his urine-drinking confession came shortly before losing a hugely lopsided bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr., which certainly hurt his credibility.
Another prominent urine drinker is Brazilian MMA fighter Lyoto Machida. In 2009, Machida boldly stated, per Yahoo Sports, “I drink my urine every morning like a natural medicine.” Apparently, retired MMA fighter Luke Cummo did the same thing.
Nonetheless, for most people, the thought of drinking their own urine remains highly repellant, which in the long run is probably a good thing.