While Chris Froome, Team Sky and the team of lawyers representing the four-time Tour de France champion are working behind the scenes to explain to WADA and the UCI why the Briton had twice the allowable limit of Sabutamol in his system, we thought it was a good time to look back at other cyclists who’ve had to explain adverse analytical findings or positive drug tests to the doping authorities.
Froome is the latest in a long line of cyclists to be under scrutiny for taking banned or restricted substances during competition. Doping has left a major stain on the sport with few fans giving athletes in this day and age the benefit of the doubt. It was revealed Froome had 2,000 ng/mL—twice the allowable limit—of the asthma medication Sabutamol in his system after a doping control on Sept. 7 following Stage 18 of the Vuelta a España. It’s now the athletes responsibility to explain why such a high value was found to avoid facing a suspension.
While we wait for Froome’s reasoning, here are 10 creative, odd and comical excuses cyclists and their entourage have come up with to explain other potential doping offenses:
A stolen laptop
Bradley Wiggins, at the time of the incident riding for Team Sky, was under investigation until recently for a mystery medication he received at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné. The doctor responsible for keeping record of what was in the bag was Richard Freeman who was ordered by British Cycling coach Shane Sutton get a package containing an unidentified medication to Wiggins who was in France competing. The package was delivered by Simon Cope who testified he did not know what was in the package. Freeman was the key to the case but he also couldn’t tell investigators of it’s contents because he claimed his laptop which had key supporting evidence on it was stolen while he was in holiday in Greece. Freeman then withdrew from giving evidence citing illness. It was announced the case was then closed by UKAD on Nov. 15.
A careless mother
Michael Bresciani of Bardiani-CSF tested positive for a banned diuretic after the 2017 Italian national championships. His excuse for testing positive was accidentally ingesting his mothers diuretic pills. “The problem is that my mother takes Lasix for meals. In splitting the tablet, a few pieces might have got somewhere in my plate,” he said.
Making love when the testers showed up
Björn Leukemans tried to explain his positive test for testosterone in 2007 on the testers showing up while he was making love to his wife. The testers responded that while that may elevate testosterone levels it wouldn’t explain the increased presence of the synthetic version of the drug in his blood. He was initially found guilty but later cleared when he explained the positive test on a contaminated supplement provided by his team doctor.
A crash causing blood to rush to the legs
Alexander Vinokourov is now team principle at Team Astana. At the 2007 Tour de France, Vinokourov was tested and it was discovered he had a double population of red blood cells in his system which indicated he was received a homologous blood transfusion. Vinokourov tried to blame the positive test on a crash the day before he was tested which he said made blood rush to his legs. After serving a two-year ban, Vinokourov returned to competition.
A vanishing twin
Tyler Hamilton served two doping ban during his career but it was th first that really brought out the creative excuse hidden inside the pro cyclists. After testing positive for homologous blood transfusions, Hamilton tried to blame the positive on a “vanishing twin” which was absorbed into his own body before birth. The excuse didn’t hold up and he was banned for two years. In 2009, he was caught again and banned for eight years. Hamilton eventually confessed to doping and wrote a book about the prevalence of banned substances in cycling.
Alberto Contador tested positive for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France. The excuse given was that he had eaten contaminated Spanish beef. Cattle are sometimes illegally given clenbuterol and the UCI said the concentration of the substance in Contadors urine was small. After a draw out legal battle, Contador served a retroactive two year ban and was stripped of his 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro titles.
The drugs are the mother-in-law’s
Raimondas Rumsas emerged out of know-where to finish third overall at the 2002 Tour de France. After the race his wife was stopped and enough EPO, growth hormone and steroids for an entire team was discovered. The couple said the drugs were for Rumsas’ mother-in-law. He later tested positive for EPO and was banned for two-years.
Doped race pigeons
Adri van der Poel tested positive for Strychnine in 1983. The substance is found in rat poison and in small doses was used to negate the effect of tired legs muscles. Van der Poel, the father of young cyclocross phenom and 2012 world junior road champion Mathieu van der Poel, blamed the positive test on eating a pigeon pie made with his fathers race pigeons which had been doped with the substance.
Floyd Landis continues to maintain that he never used testosterone to dope during his racing career despite having elevated levels of testosterone at the 2006 Tour de France. Landis said he drank Jack Daniels whisky the night before the race to try and explain why his testoserone levels were elevated. Landis now runs a cannabis products business called Floyd’s of Leadville.
Mauro Santambrogio tested positive for EPO after the first stage of the 2012 Giro d’Italia. Towards the end of that ban when he was preparing to make his return to competution, Santambrogio tested positive for testoserone which he told doping authorities he was using because of erectile dysfunction. He was banned for an additional three years following that positive test.