Court bars Reynolds from trials World's best in 400 halted at 11th hour

June 20, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- He brandished a court order. He declared his innocence. He vowed to clear his name and run at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

And then, Butch Reynolds lost.

A tumultuous day of legal maneuvering between one of America's best known track athletes, and the ruling bodies that administer the sport, ended early last night when a federal appeals court blocked Reynolds from competing at the trials.

"This isn't a victory feeling for The Athletics Congress," said Frank Greenberg, president of the organizing body that rules track and field in the United States. "For Butch to show up and compete at the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, was just not going to happen."

Reynolds nearly succeeded in a legal fight to bypass a two-year ban imposed for alleged steroid use and run in today's preliminaries of the men's 400 meters.

Yesterday morning, a U.S. District Court judge in Columbus, Ohio, ordered that Reynolds be allowed to run in the trials. But track's international federation warned that those who compete against Reynolds in the 400 could be barred from the Olympics.

TAC then took the case to U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Judge Eugene E. Siler Jr., citing potential harm to Reynolds' foes, granted a stay before the court could more fully hear the case. The move effectively barred Reynolds from the trials, and his attorneys declined to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I wouldn't make a stand for 21 months if I was guilty," Reynolds said before the appeals court decision.

"I'm innocent. If a man doesn't stand up for what he believes, he is not a man."

The high-stakes legal game overshadowed opening day of the trials.

There were Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell breezing through preliminary heats of the men's 100 while Andre Cason fell to the track clutching a damaged Achilles' tendon. There was pole vaulter Earl Bell failing to qualify for a chance to make a fourth Olympic team. And there were thousands of fans spread throughout Tad Gormley Stadium on a hot, humid evening.

But the Reynolds court fight dominated the world of running and jumping. The battle pitted Reynolds against an array of alphabet-soup organizing bodies, TAC and the IAAF, the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

The IAAF, which administers track at the Olympics, used the threat of a broad "contamination" policy to help divide and conquer U.S. track and field. Under this rule, those who knowingly compete against a banned athlete such as Reynolds can themselves be banished from competition.

The worst-case scenario: expulsion of the entire U.S. track team from Barcelona, Spain. But an IAAF spokesman said that only the men's 400-meter runners would be imperiled by Reynolds' appearance at the trials.

That was enough to line up opposition to Reynolds. Steve Lewis, the 1988 Olympic champion, Danny Everett, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, and Antonio Pettigrew, the 1991 world champion, were codefendants in the appeal against Reynolds.

"Butch had to do what he had to do," Pettigrew said. "I can't say I'm happy about that."

Reynolds, the reigning Olympic silver medalist and world record-holder in the 400, said his foes had nothing to fear.

"Butch Reynolds is not here to contaminate any athlete," he said. "The only people or system that can contaminate an athlete is the IAAF or TAC."

Reynolds was banned for two years after testing positive for nandrolone at an Aug. 12, 1990 Grand Prix meet in Monte Carlo. He steadfastly maintained he did not use anabolic steroids and was the victim of a poorly administered test.

"This shows the turmoil this sport is in when you mix politics and drugs," Reynolds said.

Reynolds said he lost "millions" in endorsements and appearance fees and spent $500,000 pushing his case through American courts and IAAF appeals. Two weeks ago, he filed a suit in a Columbus court seeking $12 million in damages from the IAAF.

"My name and my reputation have definitely been harmed," said Reynolds, who set the world record of 43.29 in 1988.

Reynolds' coach said he was capable of running close to his world record here.

"What people don't understand is this is not the action of a man trying to cover up something," Brooks Johnson said. "This is the outrage of a person who is innocent. Very few people are willing to step forward and take this rap. Any time you have this kind of radical change, there are going to be casualties. Butch Reynolds is the first casualty."

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