Track Low and Lost
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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
A year ago, just about this time, a powerful sprinter named Tyson Gay finished second in the 100-meter dash at the U.S. Track & Field Championships. As it turns out, the man who beat him, Justin Gatlin, was subsequently found to have been juiced up on steroids and was banned from the sport for eight years. Gatlin was stripped of his 2006 national title and it was awarded to Gay. Fair enough.
But as we have learned many times over, dating back to the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976, when the East German Doping Machine robbed many gold-medal moments from many runners and swimmers, Tyson Gay may have had his name moved up to gold in the record book, but he will never be able to go back and experience the joy of breaking the tape with his chest that should have been his that day. He will never get to go back and run from the track to his coach and friends and family in the stands to celebrate the fruits of all his hard work. It's as Anita de Frantz put it so very poignantly. De Frantz won a silver medal in rowing at the Montreal Games. Subsequently, the East German gold medalist in her event has been proven to have cheated with drugs and has since been stripped of the victory on paper. De Frantz says no, "Well, that's great, after all this time, to have justice prevail. All I know is I keep looking at the video tape of that race and I keep coming in second."
And so the story went for Tyson Gay, the real 100-meter dash national champion of 2006. Well, this year at the same U.S. Championships, last weekend, sans Gatlin, Gay again bolted down the straightaway and this year Gay did experience the exhilaration of breaking the tape. He did trot to the sidelines for the celebration he deserved. Justice, poetic justice, indeed.
In the women's 100, the recent story-line has been downright hard to believe. Let's go back to 2003. Kelli White wins the sprint at the World Championships, tests positive for an illegal substance and the gold is turned over to Torri Edwards. Shortly thereafter, Edwards tests positive herself and serves a two-year ban from racing. Having served her drug time, and making up for lost time, Edwards is back on the track and as of last weekend she's the new U.S. National champion in that event. What's happened to the world's most historic sport?
The great 400-meter hurdler Edwin Moses quit his sport before his body was finished, back in the 80's, because he was so distraught at the wide-spread use of performance drugs. That was an era when the drugs came through the black market, the use was underground, pretty much free from the press, and the testing not so sophisticated. Today, it turns out Moses knew what he knew. The sport was on a suicide course and twenty years later it's almost as if you're wide eyed to learn of a track athlete NOT associated with drugs.
The ultimate symbol of the fallen state of Track & Field is learning this week that former superstar Marion Jones is now flat broke. Jones' only positive drug test was thrown out because the follow-up B sample came back negative, and yet her entire career has been tainted with both drug allegations and drug associations. Boyfriends and husbands and coaches have been busted. But even though Jones herself has been hounded by only suspicions, never proof of using performance enhancers, she has now spent her multiples of millions on lawyers' fees and supposedly has less than $2,000 in total liquid assets to her name. Nike has dropped her. She won't be racing at all this summer because the million she used to make each season in race bonuses, appearance fees and endorsement deals has evaporated.
To salvage her career—and her personal integrity—Jones just may come back for Beijing next year. But if she wins medals there, how will any of us know to whom those medals truly belong?
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
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