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12 ridiculous excuses for why athletes failed a drug test

“There’s a lot of ghosts around here. Ghost put it in there. You know, the ghost of Christmas past?...I don’t know.”

Doping Excuses

Professional athletes can go to extreme lengths to try to clear their name in the event of a failed drug test. From tainted food to ghosts to a vanishing twin, below are some of the more bizarre excuses in sports, with a primary focus on running.

Select non-running excuses were included just to show the lengths athletes go to to try to justify the failed drug test.

“Unidentified medical waste” on course

French runner Fatima Yvelain, a 2000 Olympian, says that a positive drug test at a half-marathon was due to heavy rainfall. Specifically, the rain washed “unidentified medical waste” discarded at an unknown location on to the course, then to her shoes and then splashed, and soaked, her shorts. The substance from the soaked shorts tainted the test, she claimed. The French federation rejected her reasoning.

Spiked drink

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After testing positive for stanozolol for his Olympic gold medal performance over 100m at the 1988 Olympics, Ben Johnson claimed that Andre Jackson, a teammate of Carl Lewis, spiked the beer Johnson consumed celebrating his gold medal performance. He said there was a “yellow gooey substance” at the bottom of the bottle. Johnson’s medal and record were stripped and he later failed another drug test.

Doped pigeon pie

From Canadian Cycling magazine: “Adri van der Poel tested positive for strychnine in 1983. The substance is found in rat poison and, in small doses, used to negate the effect of tired legs. Van der Poel blamed the positive test on eating a pigeon pie made with his father’s race pigeons which had been doped with the substance.”

Male enhancement product

LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 Olympic 400m champion, failed three drug tests between 2009 and 2010 and cited using “an over-the-counter male enhancement product” as his excuse. He served two years away from the sport.

Lots of beer and sex

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Dennis Mitchell, an Olympic champion in 1992, tested positive for high levels of testosterone in 1988 and was banned two years. He cited the reason for his high testosterone levels to be “five bottles of beer and sex with his wife at least four times…it was her birthday, the lady deserved a treat.” The IAAF did not accept that reasoning. (Mitchell was fired as Justin Gatlin’s coach on Dec. 18.)

The mafia

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The world record holder in the high jump tested positive for cocaine at the 1999 Pan American Games. The IAAF reduced his sentence to one year, from two years, after Cuban then-president Fidel Castro claimed Javier Sotomayor was set up by the Cuban-American Mafia.

Vanishing twin

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From Canadian Cycling magazine: “After testing positive for homologous blood transfusions, Tyler Hamilton tried to blame the positive on a “vanishing twin” which was absorbed into his own body before he was born. The excuse didn’t hold up and he was banned for two years.”

“Frequently and passionately kissing”

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The American tested positive for probenecid and says it was from kissing his girlfriend, who claims she took medication for a sinus infection. With the substance still partially in her mouth, from breaking open the capsules and ingesting the medication, she kissed Roberts “frequently and passionately” and his sample was tainted. He was cleared to compete.

Another case of kissing

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At the 2016 Olympic Trials in Edmonton, Shawn Barber tested positive for cocaine. Prior to the championships, Barber had placed a post on Craigslist’s “casual encounters” section, looking for a “a woman who was drug-free and disease-free.” He also indicated that he wanted a “professional” person. The unnamed woman met Barber at his hotel room and, revealed in a later statement, had cocaine in her system, which she transferred to Barber. The cocaine ingestion was deemed inadvertent and Barber was not sanctioned outside of losing the 2016 Canadian pole vault title.


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New York Jets player Jeremy Kerley claims a ghost may have been involved after he returned from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performing-enhancing drugs.

“I don’t know,” Kerley said. “There’s a lot of ghosts around here. Ghost put it in there. You know, the ghost of Christmas past? … I don’t know.”

Oral sex with pregnant wife

Spanish race walker Daniel Plaza claimed that the reason for a positive drug test was because had oral sex with his pregnant wife. Nandrolone can be detected in women during pregnancy.

Tainted beef

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The American record holder in the women’s 800m tested positive for zeranol and was found to be ingested “without fault or negligence” by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which concluded that tainted beef resulted in the failed drug test.