LaShawn Merritt must feel like a bit of a, well, dick. That's if his reason for being ruled out of competing at next year's London Olympics to defend his 400m track gold medal is true. Merritt was banned after testing positive for a steroid contained in what is cutely termed a 'male enhancement' product.

In other words, LaShawn Merritt has been banned from the Olympics because he took a pill that he thought would give him a bigger penis.

This is remarkable for three reasons:

1) It rivals some of the worst excuses ever heard - as, even if it is true, he still looks a very large Richard indeed ...

2) It failed to persuade the International Olympic Committee that he should be allowed to compete in London; rare to find a governing body still in control of its sport these days.

3) You wonder about the thought processes involved in one of the world's top athletes and one of the fastest 400m runners of all time.

Now, let me see. It says on the bottle that if I take this pill, my thingo will get bigger. Gulp. Hmmm. Maybe I'll take two. Gulp. Aw, hell, I'm going for a carpet-dragger ... gulp, gulp.

Merritt tested positive for dehydroepiandrosterone, a steroid contained in the male enhancement product ExtenZe.

He said he hadn't read the small print on the bottle and that it was a "foolish, immature and egotistical mistake ... Any penalty I may receive for my action will not overshadow the embarrassment and humiliation I feel".

Really? Surely there's no shame in being forever known as the medallist who wanted a bigger gong. Seems to me, this is one rap where you hide the truth and say: "I took steroids because I wanted to be even faster."

The IOC deserve congratulations because it has stuck to its guns. Merritt's punishment was a 21-month ban which expires in July, meaning he can return to international competition, including the world championships in Daegu, South Korea. However, Merritt is ineligible to compete in London a year later because of the IOC rule banning dopers from the next Olympics.

The American arbitrators who banned Merritt contested the IOC rule, saying it goes against the World Anti-Doping Agency code and would essentially extend his ban to three years.

They are quite right - it does. But, with the sports world making big inroads in the battle against drugs, it is cheering to see the IOC hang tough. All elite athletes know the rules and the consequences - just as they know that products like ExtenZe may contain substances that will not enhance your career, never mind enhancing Admiral Winky.

Still and all, Merritt's reason for triggering a positive drugs test rates right up there with some personal favourites.

Brilliant Cuban high jumper Javier Sotomayor had support from the big guns when he tested positive (for a recreational drug) in 1999.

Leader Fidel Castro sprang to his defence, producing a spitting, fiery display of invective that it was a US plot, led by the evil US Cuban mafia.

They must be pretty clever, those mafia blokes, because Sotomayor tested positive again in 2001 - this time for a steroid - and Castro was nowhere to be seen. Sotomayor retired shortly afterwards.

World and Olympic sprint champion Justin Gatlin maintained that he tested positive for a steroid because his massage cream was spiked and rubbed into his legs. Uh huh.

German 5000m runner Dieter Baumann, the gold medallist in Barcelona in 1992, claimed that somebody injected his toothpaste tube with nandrolone, following a positive test.

But the best, like Merritt, are those who offer sexual excuses.

Like US sprinter Dennis Mitchell who claimed his elevated level of testosterone was a result of having sex with his wife four times the night before and drinking five bottles of beer.

But the clear favourite still - sorry LaShawn - is Spanish walker Daniel Plaza who won the 20km walk at the same 1992 Olympics. This touched off enormous celebrations as he was the first Spanish track-and-field athlete to win an Olympic gold medal. But, after testing positive at the world championships in 1996, he became even more famous.

Plaza claimed that the nandrolone showing up in the positive test wasn't his but belonged to his wife - and it got into his body after he had extended (whoops, sorry, LaShawn, I mean prolonged ... er, no, I mean ... oh, never mind) oral sex with his pregnant wife (pregnant women can produce nandrolone).

It must also be pointed out that Plaza was eventually cleared after he took prolonged (oh ... forget it) legal action to clear his name and the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the two-year ban.

Which goes to show that, in the vexed arena of sexually-related excuses for positive dope tests, it may be better to be a giver rather than a taker.

* The IOC may now have to invent a drugs test for Fifa boss Sepp Blatter. The poor old chap claimed (and then apologised) that the IOC handled its finances "like a housewife". This while the IOC ethics commission is still studying evidence provided by the BBC that Fifa officials - some with Olympic connections - took kick-backs from a former marketing partner in the 1990s.