Reynolds returns, still full of fight

February 04, 1993|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Butch Reynolds is $700,000 in debt, consumed by a legal challenge he likens to landmark Supreme Court decisions and engaged in a struggle to rebuild a running career all but wrecked by a 28-month suspension for an allegation of steroid use.

But he endures.

"I can taste the victory," he says. "I can taste the thrill of running again. But a scar is still there. If I don't run, everything will be forgotten. As long as I'm running, the statement will be there."

Track and field's rebel with a cause will resume racing this weekend.

The 400-meter world-record holder and 1988 Olympic silver medalist will run tomorrow night at the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden. Sunday afternoon, he'll appear at the Mobil 1 Invitational at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Yesterday, he showed up at a news conference carrying legal documents and dressed in green -- the color of money. The law, and the struggle to regain his riches, has dominated his life for nearly three years.

"It feels good to get a payday," Reynolds said. "It will give me a rush I haven't had before just to run again. When the gun goes off, I'm in the race."

Reynolds' 28-month suspension was lifted last Dec. 31. But his battle to clear his name, pay $700,000 in legal fees and collect a $27.3-million damage award from the International Amateur Athletic Federation, track and field's ruling body, continues.

"In the beginning, I was fighting for my rights," Reynolds said. "I was wronged. But it turned into a situation bigger than Butch Reynolds. You have Brown vs. Board of Education. Roe vs. Wade. And Reynolds vs. IAAF."

Ever since the allegation that he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug after an Aug. 12, 1990, meet in Monte Carlo, Reynolds has been staging a legal guerrilla campaign with track and field's rulers.

Proclaiming his innocence, stating he was the victim of a faulty drug-testing procedure, Reynolds has taken his case to the U.S. courts.

Reynolds used a Supreme Court ruling to barge his way uninvited into the June U.S. Olympic Trials and finished fifth in the final.

He was awarded a U.S. team uniform, but was barred by the IAAF from competing at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

"I kept the uniform, and I watched everything on television except the 400 final and the 1,600 relay," Reynolds said.

But Reynolds may receive something more than a uniform as payment for his near three-year campaign against the IAAF. Last December, a district court judge in Ohio awarded Reynolds $27.3 million in damages from the IAAF. Judge Joseph Kinneray also enjoined the IAAF and U.S. Track from keeping Reynolds off the racing circuit.

"I was vindicated," Reynolds said. "That's a lot of money. You don't even think about something like that. It clouds everything."

Winning a judgment against a London-based organization is one thing. But Reynolds faces another hurdle to collect payment from the IAAF.

The IAAF has vowed not to bend to the jurisdiction of an American court.

Reynolds' legal fight also could cloud the future of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, because the IAAF and its leader, Primo Nebiolo, control the track and field portion of the Games.

And now, Reynolds risks another suspension if he fails to respond to an IAAF-imposed Feb. 23 deadline to drop his legal challenge and apologize.

So, will the rebel retreat?

"Read my lips -- no," Reynolds said.

"If the IAAF wants somebody to apologize, they can go do the apologizing," he said. "If they want me to apologize, they have another thing coming."

His longest race has yet to end. But Reynolds says he will not fade in the stretch.

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