John Godina has the customary goals: win world championships (he
has two) and Olympic medals (he won a silver in Atlanta), and
sustain a long career. He also has a more unusual quest:
approach world records in the shot put and discus--two events
whose competitors operate under almost constant suspicion of
using performance-enhancing drugs--while proving that he is clean.
"Boy, would it be a great feeling for people to know for certain
that it's possible to throw 73 or 74 feet [in the shot put] with
a clean body," says Godina, who at last week's national
championships in New Orleans became the first American since
Parry O'Brien in 1955 to win the discus and shot in the same
year. Godina's personal best in the shot is 72' 2 1/4"; Randy
Barnes's world record is 75' 10 1/4", set in May 1990, three
months before Barnes tested positive for methyltestosterone and
was suspended for two years.
Presumed steroid use by throwers is one of track and field's
most unseemly ills. The 26-year-old Godina, who's 6'4" and 288
pounds (with 4.75 speed in the 40, a 30-inch vertical jump and
the ability to squat 720 pounds), resents being damned by
association. He was particularly galled by a 1997 SI piece that
detailed widespread steroid use and was particularly harsh on
track and field athletes. "I'd like to have SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
have me drug-tested every day for 365 days and see what they
turn up," says Godina. "Test me twice a day, three times a day.
I'll bet there are a lot of other throwers who wouldn't be so
anxious to have that done."
Godina isn't like most other athletes. An Army brat who spent
his formative athletic years (ages eight to 14) in the football
cradle of Lawton, Okla., before moving to Cheyenne, Wyo., for
high school, Godina turned his back on college football (Texas
A&M and Texas offered scholarships) to concentrate on throwing.
He majored in biology at UCLA. He likes tending to the plants on
the deck of his Brentwood, Calif., condo because it lets him use
the botany he learned in school.
His refusal to settle on either the shot or discus also makes
him rare, and he is not perfectly suited to either. Many of his
shot opponents outweigh him by 50 pounds or more, and his
toughest discus foes are several inches taller. Yet he has
world-best marks this year in each (71'5 1/2" in the shot;
229'4" in the discus). He has won consecutive world titles in
the shot, and his discus best of 229'4 1/4" has climbed almost
30 feet since 1992. He could reach Sydney as the favorite in
both events, and he would have it no other way. "I couldn't do
just one," he says. "I get bored too easily."