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What were they on? The 9 best drug-related excuses in sport

What do Shane Warne, Rio Ferdianand and Michael Phelps have in common?

NORTH KOREA’S FEMALE foootball team offered a tissue-thin excuse when five of their players failed a doping test last week.

Sports stars have a a habit of offering some fairly watery explanations. So here’s some of the best excuses ever dreamed up since Bart Simpson claimed his dog ate his homework.

With dodgy doctors and ill-conceived declarations aplenty, here they are…

(Eamonn and James Clarke/Eamonn and James Clarke/EMPICS Entertainment)

9. Rio Ferdinand: “I forgot.”

The background: Ferdinand missed a test in 2003, claiming he forgot to attend it, as he was at the time engaged in the far more important task of shopping with his wife, thus bringing a whole new meaning to term ‘dope test’.

He also claimed the stress caused by having to move house at the time had temporarily rendered him an amnesiac.

The result: Ferdinand was forced to serve an eight-month ban from January 2004 onwards and was fined £50,000.

The lesson learned: If you haven’t taken drugs, don’t miss your drugs test. If you have, at least think of a decent excuse as to why (not that TheScore condones any of that sort of thing).

8. Andre Agassi: “My drink was spiked.”

The background: Agassi failed an ATP drug test, and Agassi subsequently wrote the organisation a letter claiming his drink was spiked. The player’s form suffered simultaneously, as he sank to the no. 141 world ranking.

The result: Amazingly, the ATP believed Agassi’s letter, letting him off with a warning. Unsurprisingly, Agassi later admitted the letter had been a lie.

The lesson learned: Taking crystal meth does not enhance one’s tennis skills.

7. Alberto Contador: “Somehow my name got among the documents.”

The background: Despite being cleared by the Spanish courts in 2006 of any wrongdoing, German doping expert Werner Franke said Contador had been proscribed a doping regimen in the past by Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes – who had been charged of supplying other cyclists with drugs. However, Contador defended himself, saying: “I was in the wrong team at the wrong time.”

The result: Contador remains a controversial figure, after they found traces of clenbuterol in a urine sample, which the cyclist claimed was due to food contamination. At the present time, he is free to cycle.

The lesson learned: Try not to associate yourself with a doctor who has a history of supplying cyclists with illegal substances if you are looking to avoid allegations of drug use.

(Sean Dempsey/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

6. Martina Hingis: I’m too scared to take drugs.”

The background: Hingis is no stranger to controversy (she once claimed that being black “helps” the Williams sisters and gives them “advantages”) and as her career was approaching its twilight years, she tested positive for cocaine, failing both A and B urine samples. Of the allegations, she claimed: “I would personally be terrified of taking drugs. When I was informed [about the test] I was shocked and appalled.”

The result: Hingis retired from tennis after failing the test, saying it had nothing to do with the test results and claiming she was bowing out on account of her “age” and “health problems”.

The lesson learned: Athletes will almost never admit to having taking drugs.

5. Diego Maradona: “FIFA made me do it.”

The background: At the 1994 World Cup, Maradona tested positive for ephedrine. He has blamed his trainer for giving him the American (rather than the Argentinian) version of the power drink Rip Fuel, which contained the chemical. He also claimed FIFA reneged on an agreement made prior to the tournament in which they allegedly said they’d let him take the drug so he could lose weight in the run up to its commencement. He also claimed the organisation were worried about the commercial damage that his absence from the tournament would cause.

The result: Maradona was handed a lengthy ban from football. Although he eventually returned to play for Boca Juniors, he was never the same player thereafter.

The lesson learned: Some people never learn (Maradona had previously received a 15-month ban for testing positive for cocaine).

4. Michael Phelps admits to “bad judgement”.

The background: Phelps was photographed by The News of the World smoking marijuana (wonder how they got the tip off). It was particularly ironic, given that Phelps had been a vocal anti-drugs spokesperson and had vehemently denied that his astonishing achievement at the 2008 Olympics, winning eight gold medals, had been influenced by performance-enhancing drugs.


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The result: Phelps lost his sponsorship deal with Kellogs, while he was suspended from swimming for three months. He was not prosecuted as there was not enough evidence against him, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

The lesson learned: A video of someone smoking marijuana is not enough to prove them guilty of drugs taking apparently.

(Ricardo Moraes/AP/Press Association Images)

3. Romario: “Is it because I iz balding?” (N.B. He made not have phrased his excuse in this exact manner)

The background: You have to hand it to Romario for his creativity. Late in his career, the Brazilian superstar tested positive for finasteride, a masking agent for anabolic steroids, only to claim he considered it an anti-baldness treatment.

The result: He retired soon after and is now a member of the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil, having gained the support of the Brazilian Party.

The lesson learned: Brazilian politics and drug-taking footballers make happy bedfellows.

2. Alex Rodriguez: “I was under pressure to perform.”

The background: Having vigorously denied rumours of steroid use previously, A-Rod finally came clean to ESPN, citing “pressure to perform” (the kind every other athlete also has to deal with), along with a host of other cliches (“I was young, I was stupid, I was naive.”).

The result: Rodriguez got off scott free, as at the time that he was alleged to have taken the drugs (2001-2003), there were not sufficient regulations in place to punish drug use. He now speaks to schools about the dangers of steroid use.

The lesson learned: Baseball is incredibly lenient when dealing with athletes who have admitted to drug taking.

(AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

1. Shane Warne: “I wanted to improve my appearance.”

The background: Australian cricketer Shane Warne tested positive for a diuretic – a pill he used to mask the presence of other drugs in his system. He claimed he merely was using it to “improve his appearance”. However, the judge who convicted him found his testimony to be “unreliable” after it emerged that he took two of the pills, when he had initially claimed that he had taken just one.

The result: He was banned from cricket for one year. During his year-long ban, he, at various points, served as a cricket commentator, turned out for park cricket teams and acted as assistant coach for St Kildas – an Aussie Rules football team.

The lesson learned: Shane Warne thinks he’s ugly. Or does he?

Read more: How much? The worst transfers in football history>

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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