NEW ORLEANS -- They thought they were back in the business of holding the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Instead, meet officials were back in court yesterday.
Suspended shot put world-record holder Randy Barnes received a court order from a West Virginia judge, paving his way into the U.S. trials.
Kanawha County Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. also ruled that track governing bodies cannot suspend athletes who participate against Barnes in the trials.
Barnes, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist in the shot put, set the world record of 75 feet, 10 1/4 inches at a meet in Los Angeles in May 1990. Three months later, he tested positive for steroids in Malmo, Sweden, and was suspended for two years.
"This came out of the blue," said Frank Greenberg, president of The Athletics Congress. "Our organization has absolutely no intention of letting Randy Barnes compete. We forcefully oppose this attempt to circumvent the proper procedures."
Barnes, whose suspension runs until Aug. 7, unsuccessfully tried out as a defensive lineman with the San Francisco 49ers in 1991. He claimed he was drug-free and a victim of improper testing procedures.
Enrico Jacomini, chief of staff of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, told The Associated Press that Barnes was "ineligible for the Olympics and if people compete against him they will be suspended."
The case is nearly identical to Butch Reynolds' challenge to run in the 400 meters. But unlike Reynolds, Barnes has not met the qualifying standard to participate in Friday's shot put preliminaries.
"I think the only judge who hasn't ruled on these trials so far is Judge Wapner," TAC spokesman Pete Cava said.
TAC is expected to appeal to the West Virginia Supreme Court.
"Some questions have been raised as to the custody of the urine samples and the integrity of the tests themselves," Zakaib said. "I'm going to order that he be allowed to participate."
Barnes also filed a $50 million lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court against the IAAF, TAC and its West Virginia chapter.
"He is completely innocent of the charges, and we'll prove that later in court," Barnes' attorney, Anne Shaffer, told AP. "He is a world-record holder, and he deserves to be at the Olympics."