Friday, 20 May 2011 07:36
Barry Bonds is standing trial in the United States on four counts of perjury stemming from the federal investigation of the infamous Balco laboratory that supplied, among others, the likes of Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Bonds with steroids.
Bonds' defence is that he was unaware that his trainer Greg Anderson, using substances such as "The Clear" and "The Cream", was giving him steroids. The slugger claims he believed it was flaxseed oil.
In the annals of sports cheating, Bonds' "crimes" are writ large, though his excuse is not particularly creative. There are others - many others - who have gone down the dog-ate-my-homework route. Some are fanciful, others just plain silly. Then there are those that almost defy categorisation.
Dylan Cleaver and Winston Aldworth look at the best of them.
1 Dock Ellis
Drug: LSD/ Benzedrine
Excuse: "I didn't think I was playing that day."
Just to show some drug stories have a happy ending, good old Dock Ellis Jnr, RIP, threw the most infamous, most improbable, no-hitter in baseball history while high on LSD.
Flying into San Diego for a series, Ellis asked his Pittsburgh Pirates manager if he could go home to Los Angeles because they had a day off the following day. Given the all-clear, he dropped a tab of acid at the baggage carousel in LA. He did so again later and probably again even later. Waking on what he thought was the following morning, he "dropped" again in anticipation of a lazy, Lucy-in-the-Sky-with-Diamonds sort of day.
It wasn't actually the morning after but the morning after the morning after, something that was only discovered when a friend brought in the morning paper and saw Ellis was scheduled to pitch that night a couple of hundred kilometres down the Pacific Coast.
Off to the airport, on to a plane, straight to the ballpark. The seriously spaced-out Ellis reached out to a woman in the crowd he knew always carried a bag of "bennies", or benzedrine, which he hoped would bring him down. He munched on a few, got the catcher to stick coloured tape on his fingers so he could try to read the signals and then proceeded to throw the wildest no-hitter in history.
He bounced balls in the turf, he walked batters, he hit them. But when he did get it in the general vicinity of the strike zone, no one could hit him. Truly remarkable. Ellis' "achievement" has since been immortalised in song, in Robin Williams' stage show and on a short animated film you can source on YouTube.
2 Richard Gasquet
Excuse: "I kissed a girl."
Gasquet's audacious excuse for a positive cocaine test could only have come from a Frenchman.
He kissed a - 'ow you say - beautiful woman, and some residue of the drug passed from her lips to his and into his bloodstream.
Inconceivable? Au contraire!
While competing in Miami, the French ace met a woman in a restaurant and the pair went on to a nightclub and later - as you do on a first date - a strip bar.
Gasquet said that he gave her a dozen French kisses - "and good ones, too!"
For the record, she claimed she pushed him away after just one snog, but the International Tennis Federation found his romantic alibi and Gallic shrug irresistible.
"He was able to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities how the cocaine entered his system (through inadvertent contamination in a nightclub the night before his scheduled match)," a drug tribunal statement said.
"As a healthy single young man who is not often able to go out and enjoy himself in the evenings, it is not unnatural that he should have been attracted to Pamela, to the point of kissing her.
"He is not the first young man to have done such a thing."
3 Shane Warne
Drug: Hydrochlorothiazide and Amiloride (diuretic)
Excuse: "Mum said my bum looked big in this."
Look at footage of Warne playing his first test. If you can see your way past the mullet on suburban Australia's gift to the world, then you might notice that he's carrying a bit of extra baggage in the paunch area.
It's something the Sheikh of tweak would battle with throughout his career, so it was therefore surprising to many to see him turn up for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa looking taut and trim, especially as it had come after an injury lay-off.
In fact, his rapid recovery from a dislocated shoulder was remarkable in itself.
So when Warne ended up testing positive for a diuretic on the eve of the World Cup, those nasty cynics immediately pointed out that the substance was a masking agent for the sort of anabolic steroids that could have aided such a miracle rehabilitation.
Shame on you all. It turns out the pill/s - Moduretic - was innocently given to him by his dear old mum to improve his performance.
We believe him, even if the anti-doping committee that heard his case found Warnie and Mrs Warnie's testimony to be unreliable, handing him a one-year ban in the process.
4 LaShawn Merritt
Excuse: "I have a small willy."
Bad enough being outed as a drug cheat, worse still when your excuse is that you're batting with an undersized chopper.
When world and Olympic 400m sprint champion Merritt tested positive for a banned substance called DHEA, he quickly fessed up: the offending goods were in his manhood-enhancing, over-the-counter penis enhancement.
But it gets worse. In his explanation Merritt blunders - almost inevitably - into an onanistic reference.
"I've always prided myself on doing what's right and will continue to do so. To know that I've tested positive as a result of a product that I used for personal reasons is extremely difficult to wrap my hands around."
5 Ross Rebagliati
Excuse: "I never inhaled."
Rebagliati's ban for having traces of marijuana in his system would come as news to regular visitors to Coronet Peak who might have thought chuffing on a joint was compulsory in snowboarding circles.
Still, it's nice to know that young people today are taking their inspiration from the great statesmen who set society's moral barometer.
In this case Bill Clinton - like the intern-mentoring President, Rebagliati was adamant that he never inhaled.
After winning the first-ever gold medal for snowboarding, at Nagano in 1998, Rebagliati returned a positive test for the herb. Three days after winning the event, the first-ever snowboarding gold medal had been taken from the winner.
But Rebagliati had a great line: The stuff got into his system through passive smoking after friends lit up at a "good-luck Rob" party before he departed for Nagano.
Two days later, he got the medal back along with a place in stoner legend.
6 Mark Bosnich
Excuse: "I was so worried about my supermodel girlfriend's coke intake that I had to match her line for line."
Bosnich had it all: the uncanny ability to stop shots, the £45,000- a-week contract with glamour club Chelsea, the fast car and the ultimate accessory of the modern footballer - the supermodel girlfriend.
Only one problem, the accessory, Sophie Anderton, came with a coke habit that would made her a hit at Charlie Sheen's violent-torpedo-of-truth parties.
So Bosnich, an Australian of Croatian descent, did what any concerned and chivalrous boyfriend would do - he matched her line for line.
"I did what I did for love," he claimed after he inevitably returned a positive test and received a nine-month ban.
"I told her that for every line of cocaine she would take, I would take two. And that's exactly what I did," he said.
Bosnich's career then faded into obscurity, though his headline magnetism did not. At the height of his habit he almost shot his father with an air rifle, believing him to be an intruder in his home.
7 Dennis Mitchell
Excuse: "My wife was hot; the beer was cold."
Sprinter Mitchell managed the extraordinary feat of winning a place in the annals of sports doping excuses and best sporting quotes with one legendary utterance. "It was her birthday, the lady deserved a treat." The lady in question was his wife, so full marks to Mitchell for fidelity, and it was her apparently voracious appetite for sex that pushed Mitchell's testosterone readings off the chart.
Some four times the night before he was tested, the call went out for some action, indicating, perhaps, that Mitchell was better suited for endurance events rather than sprinting.
That combined with five beers had him positively swimming in testosterone.
The most astonishing part of this case was the fact that USA Track and Field bought his excuse (and probably gave him a hearty slap on the back on the way out of the room as well).
The IAAF didn't and he was banned for two years.
Mitchell was later implicated - surprise, surprise - in the Balco scandal.
8 Javier Sotomayor
Excuse: "I'm telling you, Fidel, it's an international conspiracy launched by imperialist dogs."
They take their sport seriously in Cuba. So when Javier Sotomayor tested positive for cocaine at the 1999 Pan American Games, no less a figure than president Fidel Castro leapt to his defence.
In an impassioned TV broadcast, El Comandante said the high-jumping legend's failed cocaine test was part of "a war against us". The sample had been contaminated by "professionals of counter-revolution and crime". That's the "well-known Cuban-American mafia", to you and me.
9 Petr Korda/ Alberto Contador
Sport: Tennis/ Cycling
Drug: Nandrolone/ Clenbuterol
Excuse: "The damned cow I ate was on drugs."
Dangerous animal, the cow. While we have had golden girls Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell and Sarah Ulmer prancing around a television set extolling the virtues of beef, little did they know of the evils that lurk within the beast.
Contador, whose name had been associated with doping through Operation Puerta and whose sport had been at the apex of doping technology, blamed Spanish beef for his positive clenbuterol reading.
Korda, who came from nowhere to win the Australian Open in 1998, tested positive for nandrolone while at Wimbledon just months later. He blamed fattened veal.
Despite an initial guilty verdict, Contador might just have got away with it. Nobody believed Korda, however, not when tennis officials made public that he would have needed to have eaten 40 calves a day for 20 years to achieve such high levels of nandrolone.
10 Tyler Hamilton
Drug: Blood doping
Excuse: "An unborn twin brother resides within me."
Tyler Hamilton's doping excuse is by far the creepiest to make our rollcall.
After winning the time trial gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, Hamilton's blood tested positive for "mixed populations", or the presence of someone else's red blood cells. He was dropped from his pro team, but kept the gold because his "B" sample could not be verified.
His excuse is a doozy, and straight out of a David Cronenberg movie.
Doctors in white coats tell us that about 8 per cent of pregnancies start out as multiple births - in most cases the extra fetus is absorbed by the mother or the other fetus. Backing up Hamilton, professor David Housman said: "Cells can pass from one twin to another during the time that they shared a womb together."
So it's possible, the claim goes, that a "vanishing twin" could be the source of the extra genetic material found in Hamilton's blood.
"The truth of the matter is they can get there certainly from a fraternal twin who has a different genetic identity and bone marrow stem cells can persist for life. So that's the deal."
Article by Nzherald.co.nz
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