They took what? 'Accidental' drug infractions

Shane Warne. Photo / Herald archive
Shane Warne. Photo / Herald archive

Jesse Ryder's desire to control his weight left him with an even bigger problem - a six-month ban for a failed drugs test. The New Zealand Herald looks at five others who have come under the watchful eye of drugs testers for some more unusual reasons.

1. Mark Nielsen
Vanity got the better of New Zealand tennis player Mark Nielsen, who started taking anti-baldness medication in his early twenties, and embarrassment stopped him telling his coach and manager or from declaring it at the 2006 Australian Open. That embarrassment increased exponentially, however, when he tested positive for finasteride - commonly used in baldness medication but also a potential masking agent. Nielsen could have continued to play if he sought clearance to use it but, instead, his silence saw him banned for two years when at the peak of his career and he was also banned by Tennis New Zealand to play in local competitions. He returned to the game in 2008 and even made the New Zealand Davis Cup team but failed to come close to his highest ranking of 172 in the world.

2. Anton Oliver
Anton Oliver was given a slap over the wrist for failing a drugs test on the eve of the 1999 World Cup. The former All Blacks hooker escaped a ban after explaining he had taken an excessive amount of a cold and flu remedy for an inner ear infection. Oliver became the first player to fail a drugs test in rugby World Cup history when a urine test showed excessive amounts of the banned substance pseudo-ephedrine. He apparently woke in distress during his first night in the UK with blocked sinuses and ears and took an extra tablet to make up for a missed dose and to get some relief. He was tested a few hours later but, because he was still dehydrated from the flight from New Zealand, produced a concentrated sample. Oliver went on to play 59 tests for the All Blacks, including 10 as captain. His last game was the 20-18 defeat to France at the 2007 World Cup.

3. Alain Baxter
British skier Alain Baxter was stripped of a bronze medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics after using a US version of a Vick's nasal spray which contained the banned decongestant levmethamphetamine (which come under the broad methamphetamine banning). After previously using a UK version of the spray, Baxter didn't check the difference of the two products, which proved costly. The nasal spray which he purchased at a chemist in the United States meant a minimal amount of the substance was found in his urine but enough to take away Britain's first ever skiing medal. Baxter was later cleared of suspicion by the Court of Arbitration, however, the original decision by the IOC to strip him of bronze couldn't be overturned.

4. Shane Warne
Australia's all-time leading wicket-tacker was hit with a 12-month ban for testing positive for a banned diuretic in 2003 which saw Shane Warne miss the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. The old saying, `you should always listen to your mother' led to Warne's downfall after he claimed he took a fluid-reducing tablet given to him by his mother Brigitte without knowing it contained a banned substance. "I have never blamed my mum,'' Warne said at the time. I thought it was important to clarify where the fluid tablet came from. It had nothing to do with cricket or trying to mask anything. It had to do with appearance.'' Warne returned to action in blistering form following the ban, taking 26 wickets in three tests against Sri Lanka.

5. Joe McDonnell
All Black prop Joe McDonnell escaped a ban for unauthorised use of an asthma inhaler he borrowed from a friend before a test against France in November 2002. McDonnell had notified NZRU authorities of his occasional asthma inhaler use but did not register that for the 2002 tour because he had not needed the medication for some time. He tested positive for salbutamol and was suspended, missing two Highlanders games before he was cleared. At the time McDonnell said the lesson he had learned from the experience was to pay attention to the finer details on paperwork and rules and regulations.

6. LaShawn Merritt
The 2008 Olympic champion in the 400 metres, LaShawn Merritt failed three drugs tests in 2010 which saw him hit with a two year ban. The American claimed the failed drug tests resulted from his use of an over-the counter penis enlargement product, called ExtenZe. Merritt failed to read check the ingredients of the product, which contained the banned steroid dehydroepiandrosterone. "Any penalty I may receive for my action will not overshadow the embarrassment and humiliation I feel," he said. Merritt made a successful return to the track in 2011 and claimed gold at the World Championships last week.

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