Lip cream for suckers

After toothpaste, beer, meat and other seemingly innocuous substances, lip balm is destined to be the next item on every self-respecting journalist’s list of Ten Best/Worst/Funniest/Craziest Doping Excuses. In fact, it already features on a number of excuse lists.

The actual story goes like this: last week, after testing positive for a classic anabolic steroid, a Norwegian female cross-country skier (the best of the lot) put the blame on a lip balm (more precisely, a topical steroid cream) which she needed to treat sun burns on her lips.

Why did she make a fool of herself? How come so many athletes deny responsibility for adverse analytical findings? Wouldn’t it be better for them to come clean and own up to whatever ‘lip creams’ they might have applied?

The thing is, elite athletes don’t respect today’s drug rules. Why should they? They are full-time athletes whose professional ethics is defined by other people. The World Anti-Doping Code is not their code of conduct. They know that there’s a huge variety of ‘lip balms’ and that no test can possibly expose every athlete suffering from sore lips.

The secret behind the latest doping excuse is as simple as that. An athlete fails a urine test and denies cheating, because that’s what she’s supposed to say. It comes with the job. Cheating is something that gives you an unfair advantage, like a shortcut in ski race.

Journalists, for their part, keep updating the boorish lists. It comes with the job. Let’s ignore them for a while and look elsewhere for truly hilarious drug stories. Ever heard of Ten Best/Worst/Funniest/Craziest Academic Doping Excuses? If not, you might wish to start off with Norwegian scholars who have traditionally excelled at defending ‘their’ athletes against ugly drug-related charges.

Since last week, our ski-loving Norwegian colleagues have kept mum. Surely they will soon come up with an appropriately dry response to the lip balm saga!

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