The 10 Craziest Athlete Excuses For Failed Drug Tests
From conspiracy theories to all-night sex marathons, these star athletes were shameless in trying to escape their positive drug test results – and a few even managed to dodge the bullet.
Javier Sotomayor (Track and Field)
Sotomayor was riding high after winning a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1999, but his career came to a halt after testing positive for cocaine shortly after. The Cuban athlete was stripped of his medal and sent home, but Fidel Castro declared that the positive test was a result of manipulated urine samples, while Sotomayor suggested he may have been set up by someone trying to damage the communist country’s reputation. Mario Granda, Cuba's chief of sports medicine also suggested sabotage by claiming that Sotomayor was an anti-drug crusader who had “passed more than 60 drug tests” throughout his career. His two-year suspension was cut in half due to exemplary behavior throughout his career and he was controversially allowed to compete in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But not even Castro could save Sotomayor the following year; he tested positive for nandrolone in 2001 and retired shortly after.
Mark Bosnich (Soccer)
Between being a member of the most popular soccer team in the world and having supermodel Sophie Anderton as his wife, Bosnich seemed to have everything going for him. But after testing positive for cocaine in 2002, he showed a complete lack of accountability by claiming he used the drug to scare Anderton into stopping her own habit. He explained in 2003. "I told her that for every line of cocaine she would take, I would take two. And that's exactly what I did." Their marriage unsurprisingly fizzled shortly after, with Bosnich later admitting that his cocaine habit was setting him back $5,000 per week. “There was a stage where I got up to 10 grams a day when I was really down in the dumps,” he revealed in 2008, the same year he filed for bankruptcy. Since then, Bosnich has gotten clean and remarried. He lives in the suburbs of Sydney and works as a sports commentator for Australian TV.
LaShawn Merritt (Track and Field)
It was bad enough for 2008 Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt to publicly deal with a positive drug test, but the track star had his dirty laundry aired out for everyone after unsuccessfully trying to blame a very personal issue on the doping charges. From October 2009 to April 2010, he failed three drug tests after testing positive for an anabolic steroid known as DHEA. But Merritt claimed he ingested the steroid unknowingly after using a male enhancement product known as ExtenZe.
With a total lack of irony, Merritt said that “to know that I've tested positive as a result of product that I used for personal reasons is extremely difficult to wrap my hands around… any penalty that I may receive for my action will not overshadow the embarrassment and humiliation that I feel inside." Doug Logan, chief executive of USA Track and Field, said that Merritt had brought "shame to himself and his teammates" and become "the object of jokes." He was given a two-year suspension in October 2010, but that ban was later reduced to 21 months and he eventually returned to competition.
Daniel Plaza (Race Walking)
Race walking might be one of the less conventional sports at the Olympics, but Plaza used that event to become the first track and field athlete to win a gold medal for Spain at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Four years later, he tested positive for steroids and gave one hell of an excuse as to why. Plaza claimed to have given copious amounts of oral sex to his pregnant wife just days before the test and, because some pregnant women produce excess hormones, he unknowingly ingested those during the marathon session. His story lined up after negative drug tests shortly after because it would have taken months for performance-enhancing drugs to clear out of his system. However, it wasn't until 2006 that Plaza's name was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Spanish court.
Melky Cabrera (Baseball)
San Francisco Giants standout Cabrera made a bad situation much worse after testing positive for high levels of testosterone. He was slammed with a 50-game suspension in August 2012 and publicly accepted it, but one of his associates spent $10,000 to create a bogus website selling a fake product. The alleged plan was for Cabrera to claim he inadvertently took performance-enhancing drugs through the product listed on the website, thereby allowing him to challenge the suspension, but Major League Baseball officials and federal investigators used forensic evidence to trace the website back to Cabrera.
Investigative agents from both MLB and the Food & Drug Administration began looking into Cabrera's associates, eventually determining that Juan Nunez was responsible for the website plans. Nunez said he would accept "responsibility for what everyone else already knows" and claimed to be solely responsible for the fake website. Surprisingly, Cabrera's suspension did not extend beyond the initial 50 games despite the amateur plan.
Petr Korda (Tennis)
A veteran of the ATP Tour for over a decade, Petr Korda came out of nowhere to win the 1998 Australian Open title and endeared fans with a bizarre scissor kick after each of his wins. But it was revealed that December that the Czech player tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone. Korda blamed the positive test on eating too much steroid-fed veal, but the International Tennis Federation quickly shut down this argument after an internal investigation. They reported that he would have had to eat 40 calves a day for 20 years in order to obtain the levels of nandrolone found in his body.
His fellow players were outraged when Korda was stripped of ranking points and prize money won at Wimbledon that year, but not banned from the tour. The ITF eventually suspended him for 12 months in September 2009, but he had already retired from competitive tennis the previous summer and still maintains his innocence to this day.
Dennis Mitchell (Track and Field)
This might be one of the few times when someone would say a positive drug test was worth it. Mitchell, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the 4 x 100 meters relay race, tested positive in 1998 for high levels of testosterone. He chalked up the drug test result to downing five beers the night before and having sex with his wife at least four times, explaining that “it was her birthday. The lady deserved a treat.” USA Track and Field shockingly accepted his Energizer Bunny ways as a valid explanation, but the IAAF did not and suspended Mitchell for two years. In 2008, he testified as a witness in the U.S. government trial against Trevor Graham, admitting that the Jamaican-born sprinter had injected him with human growth hormone.
Floyd Landis (Cycling)
Landis seemed to take the old adage of throwing crap at the wall until something sticks a bit too literally. After the 2006 Tour de France winner tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone, he threw out a kitchen sink of reasons as to why he tested positive. He was widely panned for initially blaming a whiskey-fueled night out for the elevated testosterone before telling Good Morning America that “the whiskey idea was not mine from the beginning.” His defense team then offered other explanations including cortisone shots taken for pain in his hip, thyroid medication and his natural metabolism. Landis even admitted that “if I was watching from the outside, it would look like I didn’t know what I was talking about.” He was eventually banned from the sport for two years in September 2007 and stripped of his Tour de France title. After four years of defending himself, Landis finally admitted to doping in May 2010, although he denied using testosterone during his Tour de France victory.
Justin Gatlin (Track and Field)
An Olympic champion in the 100-meter dash, Gatlin tested positive in April 2006 for excess levels of testosterone, just three months after kicking off the 2006 season with a world record performance in Doha. Facing a lifetime ban from the sport, he told reporters that July that he unwittingly had testosterone cream rubbed into his legs by a massage therapist with a grudge against him. His coach, Trevor Graham, also supported the accusation, but Graham’s support didn’t amount to much because when it comes to drugs, he is one of the most notorious coaches in the history of athletics; eight of his pupils have tested positive or received bans for performance-enhancing drugs. The massage therapist, Christopher Whestine, also denied the claim. Gatlin agreed to an eight-year ban from the sport in August 2006, avoiding a lifetime ban because of his cooperation with authorities. In December 2007, the ban was reduced to four years and he eventually returned to competition.
Richard Gasquet (Tennis)
The French tennis star kissed a girl and the ATP Tour didn’t like it. Gasquet suddenly withdrew from a tournament in Miami in March 2009 and it was revealed that May that he had been given a two-year ban after testing positive for cocaine. He vehemently denied using the drug and revealed that the cocaine found in his system amounted to one-tenth of a line. Gasquet told an investigative tribunal that he kissed a girl at a nightclub who had been using the drug and that it got into his system through their contact. The International Tennis Federation accepted his explanation and cleared him to return to competition that July, but Gasquet had already missed the French Open and Wimbledon that year. Ironically, his explanation about kissing a girl came two years after Gasquet denied rumors that he having an affair with a married businessman 25 years older than him.
McCarton Ackerman has been a regular contributor to The Fix since 2011. He last wrote about tennis champ Sally Greer.