Hall attempts positive tack as seven-month ordeal ends

Health-waiver issues mar Bowie man's Olympics

Sailing

Athens 2004

August 22, 2004|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

ATHENS - Kevin Hall wanted to finish first. He didn't want to be first.

But because the sailor from Bowie needed medical clearance for a weekly injection of testosterone, first is where he found himself in January, when the new World Anti-Doping Agency code went into effect.

And being the guinea pig has been a painful experience for the two-time America's Cup veteran. This week at the Olympics was no different.

Hall, 34, is a testicular cancer survivor who requires the hormone his body no longer produces. Getting a handful of agencies to approve his request and grant him a "therapeutic use exemption" and Olympic clearance took seven months.

The Finn is the most physically demanding class, requiring a tremendous amount of arm and leg strength to steer. There were concerns Hall's injections could give him an unfair advantage.

But Hall says regular blood tests indicate he's within the normal parameters for testosterone, which keeps bones and muscles strong and his mental health on an even keel.

"I'm trying to do my thing and mind my own business, and it doesn't really feel like I can get on with the racing like everyone else," he said.

Hall received his waiver in May from the International Sailing Federation, but it carried conditions that held up clearance until July 7. Having approval, however, didn't mean he'd get his shots. Twice, bureaucratic snafus kept him from getting his injection on time, once before the Olympic regatta and once during it.

"I was hoping to bounce back the second half, and I just don't have the strength or the stamina," he said.

"There wasn't an evil conspiracy designed to keep Kevin Hall from having a nice week at the Olympics, not at all. Even with team doctors here and the paperwork done, it turned out to be a big deal to get an injection."

U.S. Sailing's Olympic director, Jonathan Harley, acknowledged the problems.

"We're a little bit remote from the athletes' village," he said of the Olympic Sailing Center south of Athens. "So it didn't go as smoothly as it should have. But you aren't going to get into a doctor's office in Athens or the U.S. and hand them a syringe and a bottle of testosterone and say, `Here, give me a shot.'"

Hall was reluctant to meet with reporters all week. He agreed to an interview only after he sailed his final race.

"I hate to even talk about it, because it sounds like sour grapes and I'm blaming everything on that," he said. "It's not that. It's just that my goal was to sail well here, personally, even if it meant that I was last.

"I think I would have been somewhat pleased and realized I don't have the skill, but at least I tried and I gave it my all. I can't come away from this feeling that way."

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