DRUGS AND TRACK
This is an article from the Oct. 2, 1989 issue
Last week was an unsettling one for American track and field. Even as The Athletics Congress (TAC), the sport's governing body in the U.S., was announcing the "voluntary resignation" for two years from the sport of Los Angeles coach Chuck DeBus, who had been under investigation by TAC for allegedly giving athletes illicit performance-enhancing substances, Stern, a West German weekly, hit the newsstands with a story in which former U.S. 400-meter standout Darrell Robinson linked Olympic gold medalists Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith Joyner and other American athletes and coaches to a variety of such substances. Robinson's stunning claims included the following:
•In March 1988—four months before she smashed the world record in the women's 100 meters and six months before she won three gold medals in Seoul—Griffith Joyner paid him $2,000 for a 10-cc vial of human growth hormone (HGH), a possible performance-enhancer that is prescribed only for children with serious growth deficiencies.
•In September 1982, while staying at Lewis's home in Houston, he stumbled into Lewis's bedroom moments after Lewis had gotten an injection of a "whitish liquid" that Robinson believes was the steroid testosterone.
•In the fall of 1982 he saw Lewis's coach, Tom Tellez, give some of his athletes packets of blue pills that Robinson says were steroids.
•In the fall of 1987 his coach, Bob Kersee, who has coached Griffith Joyner and his own wife, Olympic heptathlon champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee, counseled Robinson on steroid use and gave him tablets of two kinds of steroids, Anavar and Dianabol.
Griffith Joyner, who has been dogged by steroid rumors since her remarkable performances last summer, flew from Los Angeles to New York to face her accuser on NBC's Today show last Thursday morning. Robinson appeared by satellite hookup from Toronto. In exchanges between the two, Griffith Joyner was icily venomous, while Robinson remained oddly passive. "You are a compulsive, crazy, lying lunatic," Griffith Joyner told him. "I never gave [you] a dime for anything." Robinson insisted that "the truth will come out in the end." TAC said that it intends to investigate Robinson's charges.
Like Griffith Joyner, Kersee, Lewis and Tellez all denied the allegations made by Robinson and attacked his motives and credibility. Robinson received $50,000 from Stern for his story and $10,000 from NBC for appearing on Today. Manufacturers of HGH told SI that they sell the drug, a powder, in 5-cc vials—not 10-cc vials—to which purified water is added. Two 5-cc vials of HGH sell for about $350 wholesale, but on the black market could conceivably go for as much as $2,000.
Questions arose about the role that Charlie Francis, a friend of Robinson's and the former coach of sprinter Ben Johnson, may have had in Robinson's decision to level his charges. Francis, who was banned from the sport for giving anabolic steroids to Johnson and other athletes, has never hidden his dislike for Lewis, Johnson's chief rival, and he strongly implied during Canada's Dubin drug inquiry earlier this year that Griffith Joyner could not have improved so astonishingly in 1988 without the help of illicit drugs. Francis drove Robinson to the CBC-TV studios in Toronto last week for his Today interview.
Will TAC aggressively investigate Robinson's allegations and, if necessary, take punitive action? Its handling of the DeBus case raises concern. Alvin Chriss, the special assistant to TAC executive director Ollan Cassell, admitted that in investigating DeBus, TAC collected statements from "probably eight or nine" athletes who claimed that DeBus talked to them about the benefits of using banned substances—charges that DeBus continues to deny. Yet instead of suspending DeBus for life—an appropriate punishment if the coach was found to have steered his athletes toward drugs—TAC, apparently afraid of legal action by DeBus, let him step aside without admitting any wrongdoing.
If Robinson's accusations are false, he should have sanctions brought against him. The only way to learn the truth is to investigate his charges fully.
Former British light heavyweight champion Tony Wilson was taking a pummeling against the ropes last Thursday night in the third round of his bout against Steve McCarthy in McCarthy's hometown of Southampton, England. Suddenly a middle-aged woman spectator climbed into the ring, came up behind McCarthy and started clubbing him on the head with one of her wedge-heeled shoes. She was Wilson's mother, Minna.
The referee restrained her, and McCarthy—whose head was bleeding slightly from Minna's attack—raised his arms in triumph, believing he had been declared the winner of the fight. Minna tried to go after McCarthy again as he was returning to his corner, but security guards removed her from the ring.
When the referee told McCarthy that he had not been awarded the victory—that he had to resume boxing—McCarthy angrily left the ring and refused to return. Wilson was declared the winner, whereupon the crowd pelted him with plastic cups and other objects. On the way to his locker room, he was punched and kicked.
No wonder Wilson was still dazed when he met the press afterward. "The first thing I saw was my mum in the ring, and then everything went wild," he said. "She has been watching my fights for years, and nothing like this has happened before."
Huzzahs for USA Cable, which served American golf fans well—at least those who get USA—by televising last week's exciting Ryder Cup competition from Sutton Coldfield, England (page 30). It's too bad the three major networks decided to pass up the best golf show of the year.
San Franciscans will vote next month on whether to build a $100 million baseball stadium near downtown to replace chilly old Candlestick Park. Columnist Rob Morse of the San Francisco Examiner asked readers to suggest names for the proposed stadium. Among the suggestions were Warmer Field, Nowhere to Park, Bleep the Dodgers Park, Say Hey Stadium and—in honor of Mayor Art Agnos, who has worked to get the stadium proposal approved—Agnostick Park.
LOVE IS BLUE
Speaking of Candlestick Park, former major league pitcher and ex-Giant Vida Blue got married on the mound there on Sunday afternoon before a San Francisco-Houston game. It was a traditional baseball service: Blue and his bride, Peggy Shannon, walked out under crossed bats held aloft by some Giants players.
According to the bridal gift registry at Macy's in San Francisco, the newly-weds have chosen the following color schemes:
AT LAST, THE LAST WORD?
Propelled by a shift in the legal wind, the San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC) won back the America's Cup last week. In what will probably be the binding judgment in the two-year legal battle over the Cup, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court voted 4-1 to overturn a March 28 decision by New York Supreme Court Judge Carmen Ciparick that had taken the Cup away from the SDYC and awarded it to the Mercury Bay Boating Club of New Zealand.
Ciparick had ruled that the SDYC had violated the Cup's governing document, its Deed of Gift, by using a 60-foot catamaran instead of a mono-hulled vessel to defend the Cup in September 1988. The catamaran, Stars & Stripes, skippered by Dennis Conner, thrashed Mercury Bay's 133-foot, monohulled challenger, New Zealand, two races to none. The SDYC's use of such a radically different boat seemed, at best, unsporting.
In its majority opinion, however, the appeals court held that the deed "does not explicitly bar the use of a multi-hulled vessel or require the trustee to defend in a vessel having the same number of hulls as the challenger." In a concurring opinion, Judge Israel Rubin wrote that the SDYC "should not be deprived of its victory simply because the design of its vessel was more innovative and more successful in achieving its purpose than that of the challenger."
Mercury Bay may appeal the latest decision, but appellate division rulings are rarely overturned. If last week's ruling holds up, the next Cup challenge will probably begin off San Diego in May 1992. Under a widely accepted protocol drawn up shortly after last year's series, the '92 races will be sailed in a new class of boat: 75-foot monohulls with 110-foot masts. To insure that no syndicate challenges for the Cup in a different type of boat, Cup organizers are attempting to get the protocol legally attached to the Deed of Gift.
Last week's ruling is welcome only in that it brings a sorry episode in America's Cup history closer to an end. As longtime SDYC member Gerry Driscoll put it, "It's a hollow victory, and a hollow victory simply isn't worth winning."
A VIOLENT GAME
Last week, at an exhibition hockey game in Moscow between the Washington Capitals and the Moscow Spartak club, half the game program was in Russian and the other half, containing the same material, was in English. Something apparently got lost in the translation. One English section read: "In case of draws, 10-minute sudden-death periods will be played. If no goal is scored in the first 10 minutes, bullets will be shot according to rules of the International Ice Hockey Federation."
FAT, NOT FIT
The procession of grim reports on physical fitness in the U.S. continues. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently noted that of 11 physical fitness objectives for 1990 set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control four years ago, only two are expected to be achieved by the end of next year. Among the goals that probably won't be reached: that at least 70% of adults be able to identify the types of exercise that promote cardiovascular fitness (according to the latest estimate, 5% can) and that 60% of adults regularly participate in vigorous exercise (an estimated 8% do). The most significant progress cited in the JAMA report was that about one third of all companies with 500 or more employees now at least partly subsidize fitness programs for them, compared with only 3% a decade ago.
The results of a 10-year Chrysler Fund-AAU youth-fitness testing program are also disturbing. Nearly 10 million children and adolescents from more than 42,000 U.S. schools participated in the program, which was administered by Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. The youngsters were put through several of the exercises found on a traditional P.E.-class fitness test: distance run, sit-ups, pull-ups (for boys) and flexed-arm hang (for girls). The number of participants who rated "satisfactory" on the test dropped from 43% in 1980 to 32%. Girls showed some improvement in their ability to do sit-ups, but those aged 12 to 17 averaged a full minute slower in the endurance run (roughly a mile) than girls of the same age did a decade ago. "We rather expected that, because running's a weight-bearing activity," says Wynn Updyke, dean of Indiana's phys-ed school and director of the survey. "The weight gains we saw in the study were amazing."
Indeed, boys 14 to 17 are an astonishing 13 pounds heavier, at an average weight of 142 pounds, than boys in the same age group were in 1983. "I'm really worried about the insidious weight gain," says Updyke. "You could see it coming, with the emphasis on fast foods and on computer games. Now it's been documented. We've got a creeping problem that in 30 years can be a very serious one for the overall health of our society."
DEEP IN THE END ZONE
The November issue of Playboy quotes Donald (Tony the Greek) Frankos, a federally protected mob witness, as saying that former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa is buried near the west end zone of Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. Frankos told Playboy that Hoffa, who vanished in 1975, was shot to death by two mob-hired hitmen in a house near Detroit in July 1975. He said that Hoffa's body was cut into pieces and stored in a freezer for five months before being packed into an oil drum, trucked to the Meadowlands and planted in Giants Stadium, which was then under construction.
Meadowlands officials say that no body parts were found when the field at Giants Stadium was torn up and replaced last year. But the thought that Hoffa might actually be buried there is darkly humorous. As Giants punter Sean Landeta said, "I guess it gives a whole new meaning to kicking into the coffin corner."
THEY SAID IT
•Lou Holtz, Notre Dame football coach, recalling his days as a player: "You hear people talk about having an inferiority complex. Me, I didn't have one—I was inferior."