A positive drug test is one of the worst things that can happen to an elite athlete. Use of performance-enhancing drugs will not only result in loss of earnings from inability to compete, but it will also brand the athlete as a cheater, permanently damaging their reputation. This means athletes will often provide very creative excuses to explain positive test results.
Last week, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the “dick pills” excuse, which has previously been used by MMA fighters and sprinters, has made its way to Major League Baseball. In a memo by MLB sent to major and minor-league players obtained by ESPN, the league warned that over-the-counter “[s]exual or male enhancement products” for sale at gas stations “present a very real risk for drug-tested players[.]” According to Passan, “at least two players this year were suspended for performance-enhancing drugs and said the banned substances found in their urine came from the unregulated products[.]”
The memo stated “a number of these sexual or male enhancement products… contain anabolic steroids and other prohibited substances.” It went on to recommend that players experiencing erectile dysfunction or sexual performance issues “speak to a licensed physician about the various prescription medications (e.g. Viagra, Cialis, Levitra) available to treat those conditions.”
I find it rather perplexing that any athlete subject to drug testing would be willing to risk their reputation and earnings to ingest an unregulated supplement that might lead to a positive test result. The claim that the gas station boner pills did it sounds like one of the best excuses yet, since it has inspired MLB to issue a sympathetic memo.
In honor of this latest excuse, let’s take a look at some classics and rate them on a scale of 1-5 piles of poo.
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Excuse: “I Ate Tainted Beef”
This excuse is so common it has become laughable, but it is actually plausible if an athlete can furnish supporting evidence. NFL offensive tackle Duane Brown successfully overturned a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy by producing receipts for ten hamburgers and two steaks eaten while traveling in Mexico. This begs the question: Who goes to Mexico to eat burgers?
According to a statement from the NFL, “[t]here is evidence that some meat produced in China and Mexico may be contaminated with clenbuterol, an anabolic agent which is banned by the NFL Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances. Consuming large quantities of meat while visiting those particular countries may result in a positive test for clenbuterol in violation of the Policy.”
Excuse: “It Was the Boner Pills”
As I stated previously, why would any athlete want to take an unregulated “male enhancement” supplement if they are subject to drug testing? This excuse is designed to garner sympathy from the middle-aged men who make up the majority of sports league executives.
Excuse: “We Used a Traditional Remedy”
Five members of the North Korean women’s soccer team tested positive for steroids at the 2011 World Cup. According to team management, the players had been struck by lightning and were treated with a “traditional Chinese remedy involving deer musk glands[.]” The excuse did not pass muster, as the players were suspended from the tournament and the team was barred from competing in the 2015 World Cup.
Excuse: “It Was for My Wife”
In 2008, legendary pitcher Roger Clemens faced perjury charges related to denial of PED use in testimony before the US Congress after it was alleged that Clemens had used human growth hormone in the past. Clemens and his trainer made the far-fetched claim that the hormones were not for Clemens’ use but rather were intended for his wife. Debbie Clemens even testified at Roger’s perjury trial that she was injected by McNamee without her husband’s knowledge. Interestingly, she stated Roger was away when she received the injection, even though McNamee’s only reason to be staying at their home would be proximity to Roger for his training sessions.
Roger Clemens was eventually acquitted on all perjury charges. It pays to be rich.
Excuse: “The Urine Collector Was Out to Get Me”
In 2011, Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun was riding high after winning the National League MVP Award. In 2012, he failed a drug test but was successful in appealing his 50-game suspension due to chain of custody issues related to storage of his sample.
According to various reports, Braun, who is Jewish, made calls to veteran MLB players to rally support, leveling accusations that the individual who had collected his urine sample was an anti-Semitic Cubs fan. Braun, a longtime Cub killer, is now widely derided among Cubs fans for these accusations.
Excuse: “Someone Sabotaged My Toothpaste!”
When I originally read about this excuse raised by runner Dieter Baumann, I thought it was an automatic five-piler. However, it turns out that Baumann was not bullshitting. According to an article from the Irish Times, testing performed in Germany confirmed that Baumann’s toothpaste had indeed been injected with nandrolone, an anabolic steroid.