Michael Pavitt

The Vuelta a España provided an unlikely hand to Spanish police earlier last week when the Grand Tour cycling race helped uncover cannabis plants.

The inadvertent assistance came on stage eight of the race in Barcelona as the peloton moved through the city on their route to the finish at Igualada.

While Team Sunweb’s German rider Nikias Arndt was possibly reviewing footage of his victory, Spanish police were busy reviewing footage from earlier in the day’s racing.

Helicopters following the race showed numerous plants on a rooftop, which were then shared by viewers on social media.

Having been alerted by this unusual citing, police followed up with a drug raid which saw them uncover 40 cannabis plants.

A police spokesperson said an investigation was ongoing to determine the people who were behind the plantation.

The incident is not the first-time sport, and sport stars, has inadvertently come to the aid of officials.

One of the most prominent examples was former world 100 metres champion Maurice Greene intervening to catch a thief at the 1999 World Athletics Championships.

The American star spotted a thief take the bag of hurdler Larry Wade, shortly after arriving in the city. Greene opted to apprehend the individual responsible and set off in pursuit to reclaim his compatriot’s possessions.

Unsurprisingly, Greene was able to catch the individual, reportedly a professional French pickpocket, and take possession of the bag.

A cannabis farm was found by police due to footage from the Vuelta a España ©Vuelta a España
A cannabis farm was found by police due to footage from the Vuelta a España ©Vuelta a España

According to legend, a member of the Spanish Civil Guard allegedly said that the thief "chose the wrong man".

"Larry was sitting down with his wallet beside him," Greene was quoted as saying at the time. "The man just tried to take it and walk away like nothing happened, he tried to act like he was slick.

"At least it puts me in a good frame of mind for the Championships. I'm not going to go home empty-handed.”

He evidently benefited from the pre-Championships workout as the American clinched the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay titles.

Former Premier League football player turned pundit, catchphrase merchant and betting advertiser’s dream Chris Kamara was not quite as fast as Greene in his playing days.

Less so after retirement.

Kamara matched Greene’s effort at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil after a robber stole a necklace on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

Having apprehended the individual to allow police to make an arrest, Kamara highlighted his "prize catch" on Twitter.

"Not lost me pace!!! I just caught this street robber," he wrote. “Done in now though.” Kamara later joked that his feat had “backfired” after having to attend a police station to give a statement on the incident.

The British Foreign Office were less impressed by Kamara’s actions, warning that he had gone against their recommended advice to hand over belongings over fears assailants may be carrying weapons.

Athletes have also proved adept at using their talents to come to the aid of members of the general public.

Earlier this year, Italian swimmer Filippo Magnini hit the headlines after helping a drowning man in Sardinia.

Having fallen off an inflatable unicorn, Andrea Benedetto fell into the sea and proved unable to swim due to a combination of the colder than expected water and a medical condition.

Former world champion Magnini, unsurprisingly, proved faster than the lifeguards to respond to the situation having been nearby at the time of the incident.

The Athens 2004 Olympic bronze medallist provided assistance to the stricken Benedetto, keeping his head above water until further help arrived.

"The bather was in a lot of trouble: he was quite frightened, he was really stuck and had swallowed some seawater," Magnini later told the Corriere dello Sport.

"When I reached him he wasn't even able to speak, and it wasn't easy to lift him on to the raft, so we laid him on an airbed that some other bathers had nearby."

Few athletes have perhaps been in the right place at the right time more than football player Francis Kouassi Koné.

Filippo Magnini came to the aid of a drowning man earlier this year ©Getty Images
Filippo Magnini came to the aid of a drowning man earlier this year ©Getty Images

The Ivory Coast-born forward gained attention in 2017 after coming to the aid of Bohemians 1905’s goalkeeper Martin Berkovec after he had been knocked unconscious.

Kone, who was playing for the opposing Czech side Slovácko, prevented Berkovec from swallowing his tongue.

Having been praised for the intervention, which helped save the goalkeeper’s life, Kone revealed it was the fourth time in his career he had aided a player who had swallowed their tongue.

He had twice done so in Africa, along with another occasion in Thailand.

Kone was understandably awarded the FIFA Fair Play award later that year.