Brian Viner: Radcliffe the radical joins all-time greats in the art of bodily emissions in public

More than one listener to the radio station TalkSport this week has ventured to suggest that Paula Radcliffe should have been upbraided, perhaps even prosecuted, for choosing to empty her bowels by the side of the road during the London Marathon. She should be treated no more leniently than a tramp urinating Special Brew into the gutter, was the gist of their argument.

After all, there is a law against peeing and pooing in public, and this may well have been the most public poo in the entire history of pooing. Moreover, unlike most tramps, she is a role model for youngsters. So why was the law not enforced?

All of which says far more about TalkSport listeners than it does about Radcliffe, and yet Paula's Poo-gate made me think about bodily functions in sport, a thought that was compounded on Wednesday evening when viewers of Sky Sports 2 were told that Everton's Tim Cahill was late onto the Goodison Park pitch for the second half of the match against Manchester United because he had just vomited in the tunnel. You will remember, too, the sight of Zinedine Zidane having a discreet little puke before calmly slotting home a penalty against England in Euro 2004.

Whatever the TalkSport listeners think, I take the view that sport needs not fewer bodily emissions, but more.

Here are young people who seem, for the most part, to be inhabiting a different universe from the rest of us. Some of them earn more in a week than lots of their most devoted fans earn in three years. And of course they are blessed with physical gifts that many of us only exhibit in our dreams. So what we need are reassuring reminders that, fundamentally, they are the same as us.

And what could be more fundamental than the fundament?

My favourite example of bodily functions on the field of play concerns an England fast bowler called Alf Gover who in a Test match 60-odd years ago started his run-up, realised in the middle of it that he was about to lose control of his bowels, so carried on running past the umpire, past the batsman, and into the pavilion.

The story goes that there was then a knock on the toilet door asking if he wouldn't mind returning the ball.

Cricket throws up, as it were, many such stories. I phoned my colleague Angus Fraser yesterday and, not inappropriately, all but wet myself laughing at some of his tales of things going badly wrong on the field, usually on the subcontinent where no player has turned the course of a match more often than Gastro Enteritis (born in India to Venezuelan parents, I suppose).

According to Fraser, in the early 1990s the entire England team rather unwisely went for a Chinese meal on the eve of a Test match in Madras, and there was more interest than usual the following day in fielding at long leg both ends. Meanwhile, at least two former England players, Philip De Freitas and Neil Smith, have suffered the indignity of vomiting just as they were about to bowl.

Fraser also reminded me of the predicament that befell Dean Jones, batting brilliantly for Australia in India despite being horribly dehydrated and suffering bladder-control problems. At 170-odd not out, Jones informed his captain, Allan Border, who was batting at the other end, that he had to leave the field.

In his usual indulgent, sympathetic manner, Border said something along the lines of: "Bugger off to the dunny, then, you Victorian poofter.

"We'll get a Queenslander out here to show you what a real Aussies made of!" Whereupon Jones decided to stay at the crease, duly reached his double-century, then spent the next two days on a drip.

At least cricketers are able to leave the field; in some sports it's trickier. I interviewed Damon Hill a few years ago and he told me that Formula One drivers, having drunk copious amounts of water to stave off dehydration, routinely let their bladders go during the course of a grand prix. I couldn't help wondering whether the convention of spraying champagne around the podium developed so that the damp patches could be blamed on Veuve Clicquot rather than anything warmer and saltier.

Anyway, I apologise for putting you off your breakfast with all this.

Unfortunately, it's hard to stop once you've started, which at any rate was the difficulty faced by the footballer DaMarcus Beasley, a substitute for the United States against Germany in the last World Cup.

Going through his warm-up routine at the side of the pitch, Beasley took a couple of furtive looks round then, inexplicably, took a long and plainly satisfying leak. Even if he knew the television cameras were on him, there was clearly no way of stopping the flow.

Beasley is now with PSV Eindhoven, on the brink of becoming the first American to play in a Champions' League semi-final, although the greater distinction, in my book, is weeing in the World Cup.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor