A story in SI's April 21 SCORECARD--based on documents released
by former USOC drug czar Wade Exum--revealed that U.S. Olympians
tested positive for drugs in the 1980s and '90s. One was tennis
star Mary Joe Fernandez (above, and below, in '96), who writes:
I retired in 1999 knowing my tennis career will be remembered
mostly because I won three Olympic medals (two golds), the most
ever by a U.S. player. For me, nothing tops Barcelona in '92. My
Spanish-born father and my mother were there, and we beat Spain
for the gold. To be an American on the Olympic podium is an
experience I wouldn't trade for a Grand Slam title.
When Wade Exum leaked the names of athletes who'd tested
positive, the most prominent were track star Carl Lewis, soccer
player Alexi Lalas--and me. SI reported that I'd tested positive
for pseudoephedrine, a substance found in some cold remedies. But
when papers picked up the story, it was often distilled to, Mary
Joe Fernandez tested positive for a banned substance in 1992.
Sometimes the accounts mentioned pseudoephedrine but didn't say
it was in a cold remedy. A Reuters headline read U.S. HAD DRUG
My parents were very upset; my friends were supportive, some
wondering what was up. Let me be clear: I have never taken a drug
to enhance performance. In 1992 Sudafed wasn't banned by tennis's
governing bodies. When I was tested by the USOC that March--five
months before the Games--I told the authorities beforehand I'd
taken Sudafed for a cold. I did test positive for pseudoephedrine
three weeks later but tested clean before the Olympics and again
after. The U.S. Tennis Association and the International Tennis
Federation affirm this.
My biggest worry is that 10 years from now my 16-month-old
daughter, Isabella, will go on the Internet and then say to me,
"Mom, I didn't know you did drugs." I'm like everyone else.
Before this happened, when I saw that an athlete had flunked a
drug test, I put him or her in a box labeled FOREVER SUSPECT. But
now? Knowing firsthand that an incident can be reduced to a
distorting sound bite? I'll never think that way again.