For any athlete, being exposed as a drugs cheat is the lowest of the low – the biggest fall from grace imaginable.
Those who are found guilty never fully recover from the shame even if they compete again and their legacy is left in tatters.
So it probably comes as little surprise that when cornered, athletes are capable of coming up with some amazing excuses for failing anti-doping controls.
Some of the excuses are so incredibly, brilliantly insane that you kind of wonder whether that much effort put towards training instead would have produced the same results drug-free.
We run down some of the greatest ever attempts to avoid being labelled a drug cheat.
‘Too sexy for the test’
In 1998, a drugs test found that American sprinter Dennis Mitchell had a very high level of testosterone – a warning sign for doping.
Mitchell explained it away by claiming he’d had sex with his wife four times on the day because it was her birthday and ‘the lady deserved a treat’.
Amazingly, US Track and Field waved that excuse through initially until it was explained that even Mick Hucknall couldn’t have sex enough times to reach that level of testosterone.
American footballer Jeremy Kerley of the New York Jets tried a defence straight out of the X-Files when coming back from a four-game ban for performance-enhancing drugs.
“There’s a lot of ghosts around here,” he said. “Ghost put it in there. You know, the ghost of Christmas past?… I don’t know.”
The Jets didn’t believe his excuse for some reason and released him, leaving him to seek out Agent Fox Mulder’s help to prove his innocence until the Buffalo Bills signed him.
Generally when trying to overcome the stigma of a failed drugs test the athlete looks to lessen their embarrassment, but in the case of LaShawn Merritt the excuse was more embarrassing than admitting it.
The American sprinter failed three tests for catchily named banned steroid dehydroepiandrosterone and tried to blame penis enlargement supplement .
That didn’t wash and so LaShawn got the worst of both worlds, a 21-month ban and everyone thinking he doesn’t have much flapping around down there in his lycra suit.
When it comes to excuses, the age-old soap opera move of ‘my evil twin did it’ is a surefire hit, but cyclist Tyler Hamilton took that to a new, baffling level.
Hamilton tested positive for illegal blood transfusions but didn’t panic as he had a very reasonable explanation – he’d absorbed his twin’s embryo while in the womb.
That made everything a whole lot clearer and the drugs testers must’ve felt so silly even suspecting him of foul play.
Except of course that none of that is remotely a thing. He was banned for two years. Or maybe his twin was.
The veal deal
Tennis player Petr Korda failed a test for the steroid nandrolone back in 1998 when it was the steroid to do.
The Czech insisted this was down to his love for eating veal which is often injected with steroids.
Sadly Korda hadn’t quite done the research and it emerged that he’d had to have eaten 40 calves for 20 years to reach those levels.
Incredibly Korda still maintains his innocence and for some reason nobody has thought to sit him down with 40 veal calves on a plate and see if he can back it up.
It was the Feds
The phrase ‘he doth protest too much’ comes to mind in the case of Cuban high-jumper Javier Sotomayor, who remains the world record holder.
Cocaine was found in Sotomayor’s system in 1999 at the Pan-American Games and the athlete responded by stating that he’d ‘only seen cocaine in the movies’.
In Cuba, the failed test was a national outrage and the sports authorities rallied behind their man. Mario Granda, Cuba’s chief of sports medicine suggested he had been framed and Fidel Castro went a step further and declared the CIA had tried to poison a high-jumper at a lower-tier sports event.