Melky Cabrera holds his All Star MVP awardAn American baseball star's extraordinary scheme to avoid a lengthy doping suspension has been uncovered after he tried to create a fake product - including buying and altering an existing website - to try and argue his innocence.
Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants tested positive for artificially-elevated testosterone levels earlier this season, and was slapped with a 50-game suspension.
But Cabrera, who earns $6 million a year, was desperate to avoid the ban: he was enjoying one of the best spells of his career, having made it on to the All Star team for the first time - even winning the MVP award in that game - a month before his positive test for doping.
Rather than simply serving out his ban, the 28-year-old decided to try and appeal against it any way he could. The New York Daily News reports that Cabrera's "associate" Juan Nunez bought a fake website for $10,000 and used it to create a fake product that could account for the dodgy testosterone.
The paper reports that the plan was "to lay a trail of digital breadcrumbs suggesting Cabrera had ordered a supplement that ended up causing the positive test".
Cabrera would then claim that he had taken the supplement without realising that it would cause a positive test result - and he could then escape a ban by using the baseball doping programme clause which lets players off the hook if they prove they took a banned substance through no fault of their own.
The website was part of a presentation made by Cabrera to Major League Baseball and the players' union before he was officially charged, but with famed doping investigator Jeff Novitzky on the case the house of cards quickly collapsed.
The NY Daily News reports that the investigating team "began asking questions about the website and the 'product' - Where was the site operating from? Who owned it? What kind of product was it? - and quickly discovered that an existing website had been altered, adding an ad for the product, a topical cream, that didn't exist."
Now, though, it seems that the stunt could backfire spectacularly as the prospect of further charges looms.
"Instead of exonerating Cabrera of steroid use, the internet stunt trapped him in a web of lies," the NY Daily News reports. "Amid the information-gathering phase of his doping case last month, his cover story unravelled quickly, and what might have been a simple suspension has attracted further attention from federal investigators."
Nunez has owned up to his part in the scheme, saying that he was, "accepting responsibility for what everybody else already knows".
Cabrera's agents Sam and Seth Levinson have denied any responsibility for the stunt.
"Sam and I absolutely had no knowledge or dealings with anyone at anytime associated with the website," Seth Levinson told the newspaper.