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Original Issue

Out of the Running

Butch Reynolds was banned from the Jenner Classic as politics clouded the competition

Butch Reynolds, the world-record holder in the 400 meters, stood close beside Lane 8 of the powder-blue track at San Jose City College last Saturday afternoon and watched in silence as the 400 field swept past him and up the homestretch. "I am shocked I couldn't run today," Reynolds said after Danny Everett crossed the finish line to win the race in 45.08. "I had the restraining order in my possession. I can't believe they didn't honor the U.S. system at a U.S. meet."

The meet was the Bruce Jenner Classic, the third stop on the IAAF/Mobil Grand Prix circuit. Reynolds had come to San Jose armed with a temporary restraining order, issued on May 28 by Judge Joseph Kinneary of the U.S. district court in Columbus, Ohio. The document ordered the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the world governing body of track and field, which suspended Reynolds in November 1990 after a positive drug test, not to interfere with his participation in any track and field meet until June 8. On that day Reynolds, in all likelihood, will ask the court to grant another temporary injunction against the suspension.

But the IAAF chose to disregard Kinneary's order. Reynolds was met at the track by meet director Bert Bonanno, who apologized but told Reynolds that he would not be allowed to compete. The Jenner Classic would have been Reynolds's third race of the season. In the first two he had run the 400 in 45.92, .12 of a second slower than the qualifying time established by TAC, the governing body for track and field in the U.S., for this month's Olympic trials. Reynolds hopes to qualify this Saturday in San Francisco at the Pacific TAC championships.

Reynolds had been awakened at 6:30 on the morning of the Jenner Classic by a call from Bonanno. Bonanno told him that the previous evening he had received a phone call from Istvan Gyulai, the general secretary of the IAAF, who warned that if Reynolds was allowed to run, the Jenner Classic would lose its status as a Grand Prix meet and any athlete who competed in San Jose would jeopardize his or her eligibility to compete in the Olympics. Gyulai may have been bluffing, but Bonanno did not want to test him. "I'm not bright enough to interpret his seriousness," Bonanno said. "He repeated it three times. I don't need to he famous for preventing Jackie Joyner-Kersee from competing in the Olympics."

"I can't see the IAAF banning every athlete," said PattiSue Plumer, a middle-distance runner who is also a lawyer. "But you never know. They're really pissed."

No one has ever challenged the IAAF's drug-testing program with the determination that Reynolds has shown. He has been fighting in the courts for two years to clear his name, and the battle has so far cost him more than $100,000 in legal fees. "I don't have any more money," he says. "I have exhausted all my savings."

Reynolds, 28, appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in 1987 and single-handedly breathed new life into the 400. The event had stagnated as year after year passed and no one came close to the world record of 43.86 that Lee Evans set at the '68 Olympics. After coming close several times, Reynolds smashed the record in August '88, with an astonishing 43.29 in Zurich. He went to the Seoul Olympics as a strong favorite but loafed through the first 200 meters and failed to catch U.S. teammate Steve Lewis at the tape. He had to settle for the silver medal.

On Aug. 12, 1990, Reynolds ran the 400 at a Grand Prix meet in Monte Carlo. He finished third, in 44.91, and was one of 10 athletes at the meet selected at random for drug testing. Reynolds provided a urine sample that was divided, as required, into two different containers, marked A and B. (The B sample is tested only if A is positive.) To insure confidentiality, the 10 athletes' samples were labeled H1 to H10. Reynolds's samples became H5 and were sealed and sent to a laboratory in Paris. There, according to the IAAF, both A and B were found to contain the anabolic steroid nandrolone. Reynolds was subsequently suspended by the IAAF for two years. He becomes eligible to compete again on Aug. 12, one week after the Olympic 400 final.

From the moment he learned of the positive test result, Reynolds has maintained his innocence, and he has a growing legion of supporters. On Oct. 4, 1991, a three-man panel appointed by TAC recommended unanimously that Reynolds's suspension be lifted because of flaws in the handling of his samples. But the IAAF would not budge and insisted on an arbitration hearing. Reynolds reluctantly agreed. The hearing was postponed five times between October and May 10, when Reynolds was finally able to present his case to a three-member IAAF panel.

The key evidence presented by Reynolds was two documents filled out by the technician who tested the samples from the Monte Carlo meet. On both sheets H6 is circled, indicating that it, not H5, was the positive sample. No other samples are circled. Yet when it came time to formally report which of the 10 samples contained the nandrolone, the testing lab identified H5 as the tainted specimen. At the IAAF hearing Jean-Pierre LaFarge, the director of the lab, insisted that he remembered being told by the technician that H5 was the positive sample. Asked why H6 was circled—not once but twice—he answered. "I am unlucky with circles that day."

Despite this glaring discrepancy, Lauri Tarasti of Finland, the chairman of the panel, said that he did not have "any doubt about the reliability of the findings and the testing procedures." After considering the evidence for two hours, the panel voted unanimously to declare Reynolds ineligible for competition.

While the IAAF had no reservations about the validity of the test, Kinneary clearly did. But the IAAF, which is based in London, obviously believes that its ruling is not subject to review by a U.S. court of law.

Brooks Johnson, who is Reynolds's coach, thinks that the IAAF stuck to its guns because it cannot afford—literally—to cast doubt upon its own testing system. "This is about money," Johnson said last Saturday morning. "It's about showing their sponsors that they are serious about cleaning up drugs in the sport."

Tarasti himself lent credence to Johnson's theory when he said, in his explanation of the IAAF panel's decision, "To say that one test was unreliable would have been to say that all were."

The Reynolds debate overshadowed a number of strong performances at the Jenner Classic, one of them by Plumer. In the women's 3,000 she ran in the pack until a bit more than two laps remained and then moved powerfully away from world cross-country champion Lynn Jennings. Plumer was clocked at 8:50.89 in beating Jennings by 25 meters.

The Jenner Classic also continued what has been a remarkable year for sprinters, who have been running midsummer times since early season. No one has been hotter than 24-year-old Mike Marsh. In the 100 on Saturday, Marsh beat runner-up Jon Drummond by five feet, and his winning time, 9.99, broke the eight-year-old meet record established by his Santa Monica Track Club teammate Carl Lewis.

The sprints could well be the highlight of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, which will be held from June 19 to 28 in New Orleans. "Carl's 100 record is in jeopardy this year," says Marsh. "So is the 200 record. They both can go. There's no telling what can happen."

Reynolds might agree, though for very different reasons.



The IAAF warned that if Reynolds (above) ran, athletes like Plumer might be penalized.



Joyner-Kersee's long jump of 23'6¼" matched the best by a woman in the U.S. this year.