Torrence runs race, then her mouth Devers falls from 1st as drug talk goes on

August 07, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- Gwen Torrence and Gail Devers are linked by medals, divided by anger.

Last night at the 1992 Summer Olympics, Torrence won the women's 200 meters, held her 2-year-old son in her arms, and wept with joy.

Devers smashed into a final barrier in the 100 hurdles, slipped from first to fifth, yet crawled on scraped knees across a finish line.

It should have been a glorious evening for two American women, one winning, the other courageously finishing. Instead, it ended in bitter attacks, as Torrence allowed a lingering drug controversy to rage.

For a moment, Torrence's post-race news conference resembled her favorite television program, "Sally Jessy Raphael."

Torrence was confronted by an opponent, Jamaica's Juliet Cuthbert.

Torrence and Cuthbert volunteered to take drug tests -- on the scene.

And then, Torrence refused the opportunity to deny that she had labeled Devers, the 100-meter champion, and Irina Privalova, the 100 bronze medalist, "drug users."

"I know exactly what I said," said Torrence, fourth in Saturday's 100. "It made me look as if I was a bad loser. Gail [Devers] and I aren't friends anyway."

That could be the understatement of the Barcelona Games.

At the very moment Devers should be celebrated for overcoming Graves' disease and the near-amputation of her feet, she is under siege, apparently accused by Torrence of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Although Devers declined to comment on Torrence's charges, her coach, Bobby Kersee, went ballistic.

He threw an ice pack against the wall and screamed: "If there is anyone in the world who deserves to come to the Olympics and enjoy herself it's Gail. This is about fair play. It's about falling over hurdles and crawling on your knees to the finish."

Despite their differences, both runners distinguished themselves on the track.

There was Torrence, powering her way through the 200 in 21.81 seconds. Cuthbert took the silver in 22.02 and her Jamaican teammate, Merlene Ottey, the bronze in 22.09.

"People say I don't run the curve, but it isn't that I don't try. I really do," Torrence said. "But when I got out about 170 [meters], I can see Juliet coming and I start to look for Merlene. And my arms got wild, and my legs got wild, and I pumped as hard as I could. Then I got to the finish line, and I looked around and I said, 'Oh, Lord. There's nobody there.' "

For a few moments, Devers was in front of the best women hurdlers on the planet, gliding to yet another gold medal. But she smashed into the last hurdle with her right lead leg, and began falling and sprinting at the same time, taking four steps before scraping her knees, bouncing up and crawling across the finish line.

"That was the fastest I ever got to the 10th hurdle," Devers said. "I was fighting to stay up, but I just tumbled and fell. I lost the battle."

With Devers falling, Paraskevi Patoulidou, of Greece, won the gold in 12.64. La Vonna Martin of the United State was second in 12.69 and Bulgaria's Yordanka Donkova was third in 12.70.

"If anyone was a betting man, they would have lost the house on Gail," Kersee said. "They would have bet her in the hurdles, and not the 100 dash

Yet despite her accomplishments, Devers is still taking hits, courtesy of Torrence.

After winning her gold, Torrence was again asked about her drug allegations, and she said, "It's over."

But then Cuthbert, the 100 -- silver medalist who was originally implicated by Torrence, broke in and said: "Actually, it's not over. When I called my mother, the second question she asked me -- after how hard I worked for getting second place -- my mother asked me was I taking drugs. I went from a high to a low.

"How would you like it if everyone came up to you and said, 'Gwen, are you on drugs?' "

Torrence said she "didn't name any names."

But then Cuthbert said Torrence told her that she was referring to "Devers and Privalova."

Torrence, frozen with the announcement, said, "Well, it's just my opinion. I gave her my opinion."

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