Lame excuses come in all shapes, sizes

If nothing else, North Korea deserves credit for being creative. Not that the country had much choice after five of its players tested positive for steroids at the Women’s World Cup this summer.

As excuses go, it was world class material. The players, North Korean officials insisted, had done nothing more than engage in traditional musk deer gland therapy as part of their preparations for the tournament.

After being struck by lightning, that is.

Unfortunately, the people running the World Cup apparently had heard that one before. On Thursday, they suspended the players for up to 18 months and banned North Korea from the 2015 tournament.

No one believed the North Koreans last year, either, when the country’s gymnastics team was banned from the 2012 Olympics after it was revealed at least one gymnast competed while underage. That might have been because they could come up with no explanation how she had three years of birth listed at various competitions other than, perhaps, a major paperwork mix-up in Pyongyang.

Then again, some excuses are believable. Others aren’t.

Forget North Korea for a moment, and study this whopper from closer to home. It comes from Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, who said last week he was sleeping when a car driven by a teammate was pulled over this summer and the officer who made the stop thought he smelled the odor of marijuana coming from the car.

Sleeping. While cornerback Cliff Harris was behind the wheel, cruising at 118 mph down Interstate 5.

Here’s a tip: Get all your cash and head for Vegas right now. Put it on Oregon to win the national title. Because if Thomas is cool enough to sleep in a car going 118 mph, not much is going to rattle him on the field.

Turns out, Thomas is something of a serial passenger. Last summer he was in a car when then-Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was stopped for a traffic violation and marijuana was found in his car. And in 2008 he was in a car when one of Oregon’s linebackers crashed it while street racing.

It doesn’t seem to bother Oregon coach Chip Kelly. He understands how it is when a college student with little money needs a ride.

"I’m not punishing someone for being a passenger," Kelly said.

Excuses can be a beautiful thing. Who can forget figure skater Johnny Weir falling apart at the 2006 Olympics after finding out he couldn’t get room service in his dorm and then missing the bus to the men’s medal competition?

Others might have blamed loose laces on their skates or their music not being played loud enough. Not Johnny.

"I didn’t feel my aura," he said. "Inside I was black."

Excuses also can be ugly. And nothing was uglier last month than when David Haye took off his boxing shoe to show off a broken toe after being embarrassed in his hyped heavyweight challenge to Wladimir Klitschko. Haye claimed the offending appendage kept him from being himself in the fight.

The problem was that after watching Haye plod cautiously around the ring for 12 rounds, no one wanted to see it.

"Why be a crybaby after the event?" promoter Frank Warren asked.

Government attorneys had their own legal pad full of excuses after committing a blunder a first-year law student could avoid in the perjury trial of Roger Clemens. They told a federal judge that they didn’t mean to show jurors evidence that already had been ruled inadmissible and asked that the former pitcher not be able to "gain an unwarranted windfall from this inadvertent error."

On Friday, attorneys for Clemens said there was no excuse for the error and asked the judge to punish prosecutors by dismissing the case.

Excuses. We all have them. Sometimes, as is the case in Miami these days, they’re all the same.

The president of the university has weighed in. So have former coaches, administrators and even some players.

None of them, it seems, had any idea that players were being provided with cash and prostitutes, or engaged in wild parties at Miami’s finest strip clubs. As for convicted con man Nevin Shapiro? Never heard of him.

And what about the excuse Lakers forward Ron Artest had to give friends for postponing a barbecue he was planning to celebrate his name change? Artest was all set to become Metta World Peace on Friday until a Los Angeles court commissioner delayed ruling on his name change petition.

Turns out Peace, er, Artest, had outstanding traffic warrants to clear up before giving up his old moniker. The name change and barbecue had to be put on hold.

Which means the world will be without Metta World Peace for at least a few more weeks. And that’s a shame.

Even the North Koreans would agree there’s no excuse for that.

Tim Dahlberg is a Las Vegas-based national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at or

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