Top 10 Worst (and Funniest) Doping Excuses In History
You only need to look at Russia for proof that we’re entering a new “no-nonsense” era when it comes to doping in sport.
While this global crackdown is of course great for sports, it means that the classic art of the doping excuse is fading away.
We wanted to make sure we’ve got something to look back on of what may soon be a bygone era, so we’ve put together 10 of the worst (best?) excuses athletes have used to cover up their PED use:
1. Penis Pills – LaShawn Merritt (Track and Field)
American sprinter LaShawn Merritt emerged onto the athletics scene as a junior, setting youth world records and even helping the American 4x400m relay team win gold at the 2005 World Championships as an 18-year-old.
Over the next few years, his career would further explode as he collected more golds at World Championship events and the Olympics.
But more than just Merritt’s trophy case seemed to be expanding. In 2010 the increasingly-muscular sprinter was revealed to have failed three drug tests for the banned steroid dehydroepiandrosterone.
While his performance on the track was at an all-time high, apparently his performance in the bedroom was not, as Merritt claimed that the positive test results were from using the penis enlargement supplement ExtenZe.
He served a 21-month ban for his dysfunctional…label reading.
2. Double Chin Treatment – Shane Warne (Cricket)
Aussie Shane Warne is one of the greatest bowlers in cricket history. One of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Century, “Warnie” is particularly renowned for his leg spin and ability to turn the ball considerably on absolutely any pitch.
What he isn’t particularly known for is his good looks, something apparently even his mother agreed on.
A day before the 2003 Cricket World Cup, Warne was sent home from the squad after testing positive for a prohibited diuretic.
What he claimed to have taken was the pharmaceutical Moduretic, allegedly given to him by his own mother to improve his appearance and “get rid of a double chin”.
Because he admitted to his absent-mindedness (and not-so-good looks), Warne’s suspension from the sport was reduced from the usual two years to just one.
3. Too Much Sex – Dennis Mitchell (Track and Field)
By the time he was 30, sprinter Dennis Mitchell had accomplished more than most athletes in the sport even wish for.
With an NCAA Championship, world record, and gold medals at the World Championships and Olympics to his name, the American seemingly slacked off on abiding by the anti-doping policies in his sport and in 1998 tested positive for high testosterone levels.
But if you believe his story, what really happened is that the night before the test, he had enjoyed “five bottles of beer and sex with his wife at least four times” because “it was her birthday [and] the lady deserved a treat.”
The best part about this excuse is that USA Track and Field accepted it. However, the IAAF did not, and he was banned retroactively for two years.
4. Addicted To Eating Veal – Petr Korda (Tennis)
Once ranked number two in the world, Petr Korda is a name forgotten by casual fans of the sport since his suspension and subsequent retirement.
The Czech lefty’s excuse for getting popped in 1998 for the steroid nandrolone is perhaps just as bad as how the case was handled.
Korda claimed that his love for veal, especially veal injected with steroids, was the reason for his hot test. That excuse didn’t hold water, as it was proven that he would have had to eat 40 calves every day for 20 years to match the amount of steroids in his system.
To the outrage of players and fans alike, the ITF only stripped Korda of his results and prize money from that year’s Wimbledon.
After a long court kerfuffle in which the ITF tried to appeal their own decision in order to dish out a harsher one, Korda was eventually banned for 12 months from the tour but still maintains his innocence (and presumably his love for veal) to this day.
5. Contaminated Piegon Pie – Adri van der Poel (Cycling)
The 1980s were the Wild Wild West for doping, and you had to be pretty obvious about what you were doing to get caught by the limited testing technology there was.
And in that era of blatant usage came perhaps the most blatantly-pseudo excuses, as in the case of famed Dutch cyclist Adri van der Poel.
In 1983, van der Poel tested positive for strychnine, one of the earliest popular performance enhancers. Apparently not just popular with human athletes, it was also the drug of choice for Adri’s father-in-law’s racing pigeons.
Since there was no drug testing in pigeon racing at the time, van der Poel claimed he ate some of his father-in-law’s pigeon pie which ultimately resulted in the positive test.
6. Cocaine Is Actually An S.T.D. – Shawn Barber (Track and Field)
Shawn Barber was an Olympic hopeful from Canada, looking to represent his country on the biggest stage. To do so, he had to get through the Olympic Trials, held in Edmonton in 2016.
Clearly feeling the pressure in the run-up to the event, Barber posted an ad on Craigslist, looking for a casual encounter – we’ll let you decode exactly what that means.
Barber got his wish, but things turned ugly when he failed a drugs test at the Trials.
He tested positive for cocaine, but he had an excuse ready and waiting: it had been transferred to him during his night of passion, as the woman had apparently racked up a few lines before they met.
The most amazing thing about the whole scenario? He only lost the Canadian pole vault title and wasn’t sanctioned in any other way, as the cocaine in his system was not deemed to have given him an advantage.
This meant he was free to go on and compete in Rio, where he finished 10th.
7. It Was The Ghosts – Jeremy Kerley (NFL)
Do you believe in ghosts? Jeremy Kerley certainly does, or at least he claimed to, in an attempt to squirm his way out of a failed drugs test.
At the time, Kerley was a wide receiver with the New York Jets and on November 6, 2017, he received a four-game suspension for doping violations.
Most would have used an excuse that was even slightly plausible, but not Jeremy. Instead, he claimed that there were lots of ghosts around, so it must have been one of those that caused the positive test.
Somehow Kerley’s excuse didn’t persuade the authorities, and he was forced to serve his ban. He said he was going to get to the bottom of what had happened, but never did manage to prove his ghost theory.
He was released by the Jets shortly after and would play just one more season in the NFL, with the Buffalo Bills.
8. Victim Of A Fake Site – Melky Cabrera (MLB)
While playing for the San Francisco Giants in 2012, outfielder Melky Cabrera failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs.
Instead of accepting his punishment, Cabrera decided he wasn’t going down without a fight, and concocted one of the most elaborate excuses ever given by an athlete for a failed test.
After testing positive, Cabrera paid $10,000 to someone in order for them to create a fake website, which sold fake products.
I mean, you have to salute this guy for his efforts.
He then protested his innocence, claiming that he’d bought and used a fake product from the site and that was the reason for the banned substance being detected. Quite simply, as he told it, he was the victim of a scam.
He was the scammer though, as both Major League Baseball and the FBI traced the site back to him, and he had to endure a 50-game suspension.
9. Shared A Glass With His Wife – Mariano Puerta (Tennis)
Mariano Puerta’s career highlight was reaching the French Open final in 2005, where he would lose to Rafael Nadal. The drama wasn’t only played out on the clay though, as he was found guilty of doping following the match.
Puerta’s excuse was that he accidentally ingested the substance after drinking from the same glass as his wife, who’d been taking meds for menstrual pain.
Puerta received a record eight-year ban, partly because he’d already been caught doping once before. His ban was eventually changed to two years though, after the ITF declared that there wasn’t enough of the substance present in order to have made a difference to his performance.
10. Set Up By The Mafia – Javier Sotomayor (Track and Field)
Javier Sotomayor was known for being the best high jumper in the world throughout most of the 1990s. He scooped a gold in the event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and he remains the only high jumper to have ever cleared a height of eight feet.
There was controversy in 1999 though, when he tested positive for cocaine at the Pan American Games.
What makes this case so interesting is the fact that it wasn’t only Sotomayor making excuses and denying ever taking the illegal drug. Cuban president Fidel Castro got involved too, by blaming the Cuban-American Mafia for setting him up.
Despite his presidential backing, the IAAF handed him a two-year ban, although this was later decreased to just one year. Sotomayor would eventually retire in 2001, after failing another drugs test.
As things are clamping down, it really is a shame the art of the doping excuse will die alongside it – we’re going to miss them for their entertainment value.