Chris Morvan writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
There was a time when the most creative excuse in the history of naughty people was “the dog ate my homework.” Still pretty good, I reckon. For sheer jaw-dropping go-on-call-me-a-liar unanswerability, the first time that one saw daylight must have been quite an occasion.
Sadly the realm of the creative untruth spreads way beyond school and into areas where it seems not just wrong but out of place. Sport, for instance. While it seems every country has at least one top sports star who has failed a drugs test – and TT is no exception, of course – some choose to come clean while others decide to push their luck.
The mission of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), is to rid top level sport of illegal drugs that give a performer an advantage, and its employees are asked to believe the most outlandish claims.
Last year an American athlete, Gil Roberts, brought us the tale of how a masking agent found in his testing samples had originally been in his girlfriend’s sinus medication and had found its way into his system when he kissed her.
And who’s to say it isn’t true? Not you or I, as much as we might scoff and invite him to leave five dollars for the tooth fairy.
The Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova took a more serious approach with her banned substance. First, there was confusion over the name of the chemical; secondly it used to be legal and she wasn’t aware its status had changed; and thirdly it wasn’t performance-enhancing but a therapeutic drug for a heart problem.
As much as one would like to believe her, it seemed as if the tall, slim, unsmiling head prefect of the women’s tour was daring us to call into question her character.
“Me?” Sharapova seemed to say. “I’m not your wayward daughter, I’m your mother and you’d better show some respect.”
The latest candidate for the Most Outrageous Excuse award is the UK’s former heavyweight boxing champion, Tyson Fury. He may be prejudiced, bigoted, small-minded and utterly unreliable, but he has things to say. And in this quote-hungry world, to some observers that is better than silence.
Fury’s latest outlandish grab at our willingness to believe is that the “unacceptably high level” of the male sex hormone nandrolone found in his system was caused by eating uncastrated wild boar. And that’s a very Tyson Fury thing to claim. We wouldn’t accept a prim little Sharapova-style story from a clown like him, but to conjure up an image of a primitive man-mountain eating whatever comes his way out in the wild somehow fits the profile and makes it almost believable.
Whether he found the boar snarling in the woods near his house in rural England or had it served to him in a Michelin-starred restaurant in a pretty village where policemen still ride bicycles is not the point. But rather than either of those scenarios, the whole thing seems, to me, more likely to be the product of his PR company’s imagination.
Imagine the brief: “Fury’s in trouble and what we need to do is find a potential source of this chemical that we can weave into an elaborate story that might – just might – sound plausible. And in addition to a cash bonus for whoever comes up with it, we’ll throw in dinner for two at that same restaurant… I mean a walk through that dark and scary woodland and the opportunity to wrestle a violent, grunting, squealing, hairy pig into submission before roasting it over a camp fire.” Having first checked that it was still in possession of its wedding tackle, that is.
Maybe Fury drew inspiration from the North Korea Women’s Soccer Team. At the 2011 World Cup, five members of the team tested positive for steroids. Their management’s explanation was that the players had been struck by lightning and had to resort to a traditional Chinese remedy involving deer musk glands to recover. The authorities didn’t buy it; the players were suspended and the team was banned from the 2015 World Cup.
But one who did get away with it was American footballer Duane Brown of the Houston Texans, who was suspended for ten games by the NFL after testing positive for the steroid-like substance clenbuterol. He blamed Mexican farmers, saying he had eaten too much meat on a trip to that country. And he won his appeal by presenting evidence that some meat produced in Mexico and China was contaminated with the substance. He produced receipts showing he ate at least ten hamburgers and two steaks during his week-long vacation there.
It’s a grim old world, so if all these knuckleheads can give us is that kind of entertainment, rather than a great, clean performance, perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies.