The ingenuity that unscrupulous professional cyclists display when coming up with excuses to explain positive doping tests is something to behold.
We take a look at some of the most fanciful, pitiful and laughable.
Gilberto Simoni’s cocaine sweets
Italian Gilberto Simoni explained away a positive test for cocaine during the 2002 Giro d’Italia on some cough sweets that his aunt had obtained from South America. Previously, he had suggested that he had failed a test for the drug having been unwittingly given cocaine in an injection during a visit to his dentist. He was cleared and returned to racing.
Tyler Hamilton’s chimeric twin
When Tyler Hamilton failed a test for homologous blood transfusion in 2004, the only explanation he could give for having someone else’s blood in his veins was that he suffered from a rare genetic condition. Hamilton said he was a chimera, and had two sets of genetic material including one from a twin that he absorbed when in his mother’s uterus. He was banned for two years and subsequently admitted to doping, writing a tell-all book about it.
Adri van der Poel’s pigeon pie
Strychnine is a substance better known as a rodent poison, but in small doses has the effect of helping tired leg muscles. Dutch pro Adri van der Poel tested positive for it in 1983 and blamed the result on eating a pigeon pie made with his father-in-law’s racing pigeons which had been doped with the substance.
Floyd Landis and his dodgy whisky
Floyd Landis staged a sensational comeback during the 2006 Tour de France to take the title – but the American’s glory was short lived after a test result showed elevated levels of testosterone. Landis blamed the consumption of whisky as the reason, which had caused him to dehydrate and skew his blood values. Like Hamilton, he later admitted to doping during his riding career and was instrumental in exposing Lance Armstrong’s career-long doping regime.
Alberto Contador’s tainted steak
One of the longest-running and most protracted doping cases was that of Alberto Contador’s clenbuterol positive at the 2010 Tour de France. Contador said that he must have ingested the substance via a tainted steak brought to France from Spain by a friend, simultaneously alienating the Spanish farming industry and causing sniggers among race fans. After much to-ing and fro-ing of the UCI, WADA, lawyers and the Court of Arbitration for Sport he lost the 2010 Tour title and served a ban.
Mauro Santambrogio’s erectile dysfunction
The Italian had existing form when it comes to doping positives, having failed a test for EPO at the 2013 Giro d’Italia. Towards the end of his ban for that infringement, Santambrogio tested positive for Andriol (testosterone), and blamed treatment for erectile dysfunction as the cause.
Frank Vandenbroucke’s doggy drugs
Police investigating dodgy doping doctor Bernard Sainz were led to Belgian pro Frank Vandenbroucke’s house in 2002, where a small quantity of banned substances were found, including EPO and clenbuterol. Vandenbroucke told authorities they were for treating his dog. He later admitted to doping but sadly died of a pulmonary embolism in 2009.
Raimondas Rumšas’s mother-in-law’s doping cocktail
After placing third at the 2002 Tour de France, police searched Raimondas Rumšas’s wife’s car and discovered a veritable pharmacy including steroids, EPO, testosterone and growth hormones. His wife claimed they were for her mother, but that didn’t stop the Lithuanian testing positive for EPO the following year.
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Lance Armstrong’s ‘everyone else was doing it’
The weakest excuse is kept for last. Lance Armstrong admitted during a television show with Oprah Winfrey that he doped for all seven of his Tour de France wins (1999-2005), subsequently stripped. Having made a career of denying doping and crushing anyone who said he did, Armstrong has only ever offered the excuse that he was simply doing what everyone else was doing at the time. Armstrong is banned for life.