'Baby Ben' banned like hero U.S. relays still not untracked BARCELONA '92

July 31, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- There is Dave without Dan, a 100-meter sprint without Carl Lewis and a cou- ple of relay teams without lineups.

But before the first race was run early today, a mini-drug scandal was added to the start list at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

Four years after Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was banished for steroids, a British sprinter nicknamed Baby Ben was barred from the Barcelona Games.

Jason Livingston, the European 60-meter champion who was scheduled to run the 100 and anchor a 4 x 100 relay team, was one of three British athletes sent home after testing positive for steroids.

Livingston, who resembles Johnson and has pictures of the Canadian sprinter on his walls, was nabbed in a random test administered in Great Britain and revealed publicly yesterday.

The bust was just another strange chapter leading up to the track and field competition.

Lewis is out of the 100 after finishing sixth at the U.S. trials. Reigning world champion Dan O'Brien blew an ad campaign, not to mention a possible decathlon gold medal, when he failed to clear a height in the trials' pole vault. And 400 world-record holder Butch Reynolds ran out of gas, and legal options, in his bid to overturn a two-year drug suspension.

And there is also America's annual relay controversy. This time ,, there are two squabbles with the Lewis-led Santa Monica Track Club at the center of the storm.

The potential insertion of Michael Johnson to the 1,600 relay team and

the probable exclusion of Lewis on the 400 team is fracturing the tenuous unity of the U.S. squad.

"It's a war of egos," U.S. men's coach Mel Rosen said. "I knew this was going to happen. I've been saying to people that maybe we shouldn't have the relays."

A rules change in the wake of a disappointing second-place finish in the 1,600 relay at last year's world championships paved the way for the controversy. Instead of simply taking the first four runners in the 400 from the trials, it was left to the discretion of the coaches to select the team.

Now ask yourself, would you leave Michael Johnson, ranked No. 1 in the world in the 400, off your relay team because he didn't run the sprint in the trials?

For Rosen, the answer was apparently simple.

Johnson is in, and Michael Valmon, fourth in the trials, is out. For now. With Danny Everett bothered by a nagging Achilles' injury, there still could be room for more maneuvering in the 1,600 relay.

Lewis may not be as fortunate in the 400 relay. He is the second alternate, waiting for a withdrawal or an injury in a bid to win another gold medal.

UI "Of course I'd like to be on the team," he said. "But I'll do what is

best for the United States."

Despite the controversy, the United States may be fielding its strongest team in decades.

Dennis Mitchell (100), Johnson (200), Steve Lewis (400) and Mark Everett (800) are all gold-medal favorites. Runners from Kenya, led by David Kibet in the 1,500 and Ibrahim Hussein in the marathon, are poised to sweep the distance races.

The pole vault features Sergei Bubka, winner of three world championships, one Olympic gold, and holder of 30 records both indoors and out.

The long jump is arguably the most eagerly awaited contest, with world-record holder Mike Powell taking on Lewis. And now that O'Brien is out, Dave Johnson is in as the favorite in the decathlon.

Gwen Torrence could emerge as the major star among the women. Last year's world champion runner-up in the 100 and 200 is this year's favorite after German Katrin Krabbe withdrew from the Games following a lingering drug dispute.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee will have a difficult time reclaiming golds in the long jump and heptathlon. German Heike Dreschler has the longest jump of the year, a wind-aided 25 1/2 feet recorded in Sestriere, Italy. And another German, Sabine Braun, has scored 6,985 points in the heptathlon, 290 higher than Kersee.

Sandra Farmer-Patrick is the American favored for gold in the 400 hurdles. Unified Team runners Lyudmila Rogachova and Tatyana Dorovskikh are expected to dominate the middle distances. And the 10,000 could feature South Africa's first Olympic medal in 32 years, with Elana Meyer matched against Great Britain's Liz McColgan.

"For me, it's really a challenge to be here," Meyer said. "But I don't look at this as my last Olympics. I look at it as my first."

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