"What is the subject of your column this week?" he beat out in Morse code on my napper with a claw hammer.
"I was going to do it on drugs," I said. "I presumed you always did," came the reply.
He went back to throwing the semmits of the production staff to his pack of wolves. Presumably to give them the scent before the backshift arrived. I returned to rumination, a small closet once used as a smoking room when the sports staff had the time and energy to suck on a tobacco stick.
My views on drugs may have been shaped by experience. A dodgy tab on Byres Road in the 1970s has left me with the distinct paranoia that the sports editor has it in for me and that he carries a pink gecko with sunglasses on his left shoulder. I will not be convinced by the protestations from others that these are not delusions because a) the sports editor hates me with the fire of a thousand suns and b) the gecko is called Grant.
But my stance on drugs in sport is shaky. It lacks conviction. I wish I could say that about my record in sheriff courts. My conversations with fellow journalists on the subject are fraught. Mostly, they believe drug-taking is cheating. I reply eloquently: "Aye but . . ."
They have an unfair advantage in that they are more articulate, more intelligent and know more about the subject than me. I counter by scratching my head. This does not always win the argument but it is cheaper than nit medicine.
My point, if it can be glorified by such a term, is what constitutes drugs and what constitutes cheating. It seems simple enough. If drugs are banned, then athletes should not use them.
It is fair to say that this injunction has not worked. It is also reasonable to suggest that "performance-enhancing" is a term so flexible it could win gold on the parallel bars. There is nothing so performance-enhancing as a painkilling injection. Yet athletes are praised for bravery for talking such a jag. Footballers, too, talk about cortisone injections.
But these drugs are all right. The ones that are not all right include ephedrine, a stimulant, while caffeine, also a stimulant, is hunky dory, and may indeed be helping one make one's way through this column.
The anti-drug brigade are really an anti-some drugs brigade and they have been marching towards defeat. This has something to do with the inconsistency over which drugs are allowed and which are not.
It has also much to do with the inadequacy of testing. But the defeat of the drugs policy as practised is ensured because it is aimed at the very people who push everything to the limit in search of sporting success and it defies rational explanation beyond: "Don't do it".
Sportsmen and women are not just taking drugs to gain an edge, they are taking them to maintain competitiveness with other cheats. And, yes, cheating is what it is because it is breaking the rules.
The debate over allowing competitors to use only what is natural falls down when such legal techniques such as blood-spinning, hypoxic chambers and industrial doses of painkillers are the norm.
So what do the authorities do? Let everyone have free access to drugs, making the Olympics a sort of Trainspotting with a medal ceremony? Decide to ban only drugs that can hurt one's health, thus making cheats out of every footballer who has had a post-match pint?
This is not to reduce an important question to flippancy but the drug policy is not working and many clean sportsmen believe they are competing against undetected cheats and, just sometimes, cannot see difference between legal and illegal drugs beyond a statement in a rule book.
There has to be a debate on drugs. It must concern health and safety. It must be rational, not emotional. It must discuss authentic pharmacology not manufactured morality. It should be devoid of cant.
Rant over. It's time for my sedative. "A drugs column?" mused the sports editor. "I wish I had just said no."
Hugh MacDonald will be appearing with award-winning cycling writer Richard Moore at the Dundee Literary Festival next Saturday, October 26, at 4pm. Tickets for 'From Andy Murray to Le Tour: How British Sport Took Over the World' are available from 01382 384413 or www.dundee.ac.uk/literarydundee