Despite Some Charges, Illegal Drug Use Seems To Be Down
BARCELONA — BECAUSE of the Ben Johnson drug scandal in 1988, Olympic organizers held their breath during the last 16 days in Barcelona. What troubles emerged, though, were mostly in the form of rumblings rather than shock waves.
Innuendo flew freely on occasion, but there were only four actual positive doping tests reported, compared with 10 in Seoul, and none involved an athlete of Johnson's prominence. One of the larger furors grew out of the unsettling and unspecific comments made by United States sprinter Gwen Torrence after her fourth-place finish in the 100-meter dash, an event she was favored to win. "Three people in the race weren't clean" of drugs, she said in a comment some interpreted as irresponsible sour grapes. Her
vague indictment was revisited after she won the 200 meters, prompting angry responses from various sides and later an apology from Ms. Torrence "to those athletes from any nation who feel harmed by my opinions or actions."
Several of the disqualifications in Barcelona came in track and field, a sport increasingly faced with the need to expel cheaters lest it lose credibility with spectators and sponsors. A pre-Olympic drug-testing dragnet caught a number of users before they could get to the Games.
In perhaps a sign of the times, all three medal winners in the men's shot put share a history of past drug suspensions.
Many experts continue to call for more random, out-of-competition testing. Even then, staying a step ahead of those who formulate and distribute so-called performance-enhancing drugs presents a major challenge. "It's a race, a cat-and-mouse game," says Wade Exum, head of the US Olympic Committee's drug-control effort.