We all lie, as often as two or three times every ten minutes, says one study (if it can be trusted). Sounds pretty reprehensible, right? But consider the alternative. When faced with evidence of blatant wrongdoing, some people take a deep breath, put their hands on the Bible, and … deny, deny, deny! But others lie like rugs. Take the Brazilian soccer player who claimed he’d been kidnapped just so he could avoid a fine for being late to practice. He was arrested for falsely reporting a crime. What was this dolt thinking? He wasn’t, says Cornell University professor Jeff Hancock. Consider this mathematical equation: Desperation + Lack of Time = Idiotic Lie. People like him, says Hancock, “should never again put themselves in the position of having to lie on the spot,” for the simple reason that they stink at it. And these fibbers should follow the same advice: Would you fall for these whoppers?
A few years ago, several staffers at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, D.C., were investigated for watching porn on their computers at work. The biggest perpetrator: an executive who’d spent 331 days chatting online with naked women, reported the Washington Times. But government money—up to $58,000—was not wasted, insisted the man.
The lie: By clicking on the various porn sites, our executive provided these women with a living. “He explained that these young women were from poor countries and needed to make money to help their parents, and this site helped them do it,” an investigator reported.
Were there any suckers? His altruism notwithstanding, the official has since “retired.” In light of his actions, the foundation has tightened controls to filter out inappropriate Internet addresses.
Clenbuterol is a drug used by farmers to keep their animals from getting too chubby. Because athletes don’t want to waddle across the finish line, some are tempted to try it, even though the International Olympic Committee has banned its use. But when Tong Wen, China’s Olympic judo champion, tested positive for clenbuterol last year after an event, her coach had an explanation for how it ended up in Tong’s system.
The lie: She ate “a lot of pork chops,” the coach told the BBC. And that pork was tainted by clenbuterol.
Were there any suckers? Olympic officials are famously vigilant. Ten years ago, when track star Dennis Mitchell made the claim that lots of sex and beer were responsible for his high levels of testosterone, the International Association of Athletics Federations banned him from racing for two years. But Tong’s blame-the-pig defense panned out, sort of. She was cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport due to a technicality: She wasn’t present when a backup urine sample was tested. The International Judo Federation blasted the ruling, insisting it would have “a very negative influence” on the sports world.
While running for a seat on the Birmingham, Alabama, Board of Education, 23-year-old Dr. Antwon B. Womack said he’d graduated from West End High School and
received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Alabama A&M. Impressive, except that Womack was 21, didn’t have a doctorate, didn’t attend college, and never graduated from high school. Other than that, he told the Birmingham News, he was honest.
The lie: “My campaign is not based on a foundation of lies,” he insisted. The truth: “It’s just that the information I provided to the people is false.” The honest-to-God truth: The revelations are “really going to hurt my career.”
Were there any suckers? Yes, 117 of them. That’s how many people voted for Womack, landing him in fourth place out of five candidates.
When Jayson Williams’s Mercedes-Benz SUV crashed in Manhattan, officers found the former basketball star sitting in the passenger seat. When asked by police who’d caused the crash, Williams deflected all blame.
The lie: It wasn’t me, he insisted. “Someone else was driving.”
Were there any suckers? The fact that witnesses had seen Williams behind the wheel, not to mention the absence of anyone else in the car, led authorities to conclude that he’d switched seats. And yes, alcohol was involved.
When Eugene Todie pulled up to the New York–Canada border, guards noticed that he was sporting the latest in criminal haute couture, an ankle monitor. Intrigued, they asked Todie, “What’s the occasion?”
The lie: To die explained that a friend urged him to wear it as a show of solidarity with Lindsay Lohan, who was following a court order and wearing one herself.
Were there any suckers? After a background check showed that Todie was on probation for criminal contempt and not allowed to leave the country, he was arrested and is now awaiting sentencing.
Sergei Berejnoi raced through Denver International Airport trying to catch his SkyWest Airlines flight. Unfortunately, he arrived just after the plane had left the gate with his luggage onboard. With his pleas to bring back the plane falling on deaf ears, he offered the gate agent a not-so-subtle reason for doing as he said.
The lie: “There’s a bomb in my suitcase.”
Were there any suckers? The aircraft was checked for explosives. When none were found, Berejnoi took a trip of another sort, to the police station. He’s now on probation for six months.