‘Is there a problem?’
The surreptitious closing of the door suggested that there was.
‘I’m sorry to inform you,’ began the official in a nasal voice. ‘That under section 27(a) of the Substance Abuse and Doping Act 2016…’
‘No,’ mouthed Ian, his eyes wide. ‘No.’
‘…we are left with no choice but to disqualify you from the competition…’
‘You can’t be serious!’
‘…and indeed from every competition here on in until your suspension is served or the result of any subsequent appeal is known.’
Ian ran both hands through his hair.
‘A mistake surely,’ he said. ‘The samples, they must have been mixed in the fridge.’
‘I’m afraid not, sir. In-competition A and B samples were both positive. I’m afraid there is no doubt.’
‘The lab procedures, then,’ insisted Ian, his voice shriller. ‘There’s no oversight. Who’s to say my test tube wasn’t doctored overnight?’
The official shook his head sadly.
‘I’ve had testing all through my career,’ said Ian, louder again. ‘If you go into that room you’ll not find a single competitor whose been tested more than me. It’s a conspiracy, that’s what it is!’
‘Sir, if you wish to contest the findings, then you have recourse to the same procedures that protect the integrity of the competition for…’
The remainder of the official’s sentence was lost in a dry wheeze as Ian pushed him against the wall.
‘Do you think I’m the only one?’ he said through gritted teeth, his mouth inches from the smaller man’s face. ‘Look around you. Are you seriously suggesting that no-one else has pushed the boundaries? It’s part of the sport, you damned ignoramus! If you take me down, I’ll blow this whole scandal wide open, I swear it. You’ll have no one left to test, you smarmy little jobsworth.’
‘Enough!’ cried the official, breaking free of his attacker and wiping spittle from his face. ‘Never in all my days…Pushed the boundaries, did you? Is that what you call this…monstrosity?’
He walked over to the door and flung it open, revealing the competition room where other competitors were still milling around, congratulating each other and shaking hands with the judges.
‘Well?’ demanded the official. ‘What the hell was I supposed to do when this was wheeled into the hall?’
Ian scratched his head once more as he looked at the podium. The pumpkin’s girth spread over all three podium places, corpulent and hideously ugly. Bulbous, throbbing veins snaked their way down it’s orange sides. Unsightly bulges warped the mottled skin. Stretch marks gave lie to unnatural growth. And the smell. The pumpkin reeked of garden rot, of mortified flesh and of vile corruption. Completing the picture was a limp banner draped over the tangerine mass proclaiming ‘Tatnell Village Fete Best Vegetable 2018’.
Ian’s shoulders sagged.
‘I’ll admit,’ he said through a nervous laugh. ‘I’ll admit that at first glance things might look suspicious. But any positive results are easily explained away…I’ve got a medical exemption certificate somewhere at home…an awful year for leaf blight and any medication used was solely for the purpose of…’
***Thanks for reading, folks. Any comments or likes greatly appreciated!***