Excuses. We all use them. They are convenient and are a big part of what makes us human.
The dog ate my homework, I am not going to the gym because I feel a cold coming on or I can’t go to dinner because I can’t get a babysitter, are but a few but when it comes to sport the excuse takes on a whole new level of possibility.
Earlier this week, British women’s number one tennis star, Heather Watson, was dumped out of the Australian Open in straight sets (6-4, 6-0) by Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.
In a post-match interview, Watson, claimed the reason she was beaten was because of “girl things” aka her period.
Research into how a female athlete’s menstrual cycle can impact upon their performance is extremely limited but there can be no doubt that it has an impact.
Be that as it may, and here comes the controversial question, is Watson’s “girl things” reasoning a convenient excuse or, as some have labelled it, the last taboo in sport?
Personally, I think it does other women a great injustice to suggest that the only reason athletes like Pironkova win matches is because their opponent, in this instance Watson, is experiencing “girl things”.
Watson was in great form going into the competition but is she seriously suggesting that the only way Pironkova could have defeated her was because she was experiencing period pains?
It’s a highly emotive debate but when asked about it earlier this week, former World Champion marathon runner, Paula Radcliffe, recalled how on a day in 2002 her period pains started; she went on to break the world record at the Chicago Marathon.
“I broke the world record so it can’t be that much of a hindrance,” said Radcliffe who still holds the world record for the fastest time by a female in a marathon.
The impact of period pains on female athletes is something that requires much more investigation before any definitive answer can be given but in the wake of Watson’s comments it reminded me of some the worst excuses to be used by both men and women in sport.
Do you remember the infamous grey Manchester United strip?
In April 2006, Manchester United found themselves 3-0 down to Southampton and in a bid to reduce the deficit they changed out of their grey strip at half-time. Southampton still won the game 3-1.
Or what about David James’ computer games ‘addiction’?
Then Liverpool goalkeeper James blamed a series of mishaps on such Playstation classics as ‘Tekken’.
“Even now I’ll be in goal and someone will yell: ‘Oi Jamo, where’s your Nintendo’ I’ve had to accept that it will always be remembered,” said James a few years later.
But my personal favourite was the excuse used by sprinter Justin Gatland’s coach, Trevor Graham to explain how the sprinter tested positive for testosterone in 2006.
Graham claimed sabotage was afoot and that a massage therapist rubbed a cream containing testosterone onto his athlete’s buttocks without his knowledge.
The therapist denied the claim and said: “Trevor Graham is not speaking on behalf of Justin Gatlin and the story about me is not true.”