Who's Clean, Who's Not? That's the question swirling around the U.S. track and field team, which could be decimated before the Olympics by a crackdown on performance-enhancing drug users

May 30, 2004

At the Home Depot Track and Field Invitational in Carson, Calif.,
last Saturday, competitors tried to change the subject. "Can't we
get the focus back on the performances?" asked Maurice Greene
after turning in the year's fastest 100-meter time. "Can't we
please talk about the positive things going on in track and
field?" ¶ But reporters kept peppering Greene and nearly every
other athlete with questions about the Bay Area Laboratory
Co-Operative (BALCO) drug scandal, which suddenly threatens to
decimate this year's U.S. Olympic track and field team. After
finishing second in the 100-meter hurdles, three-time Olympian
Gail Devers admitted, "Every night I pray for my sport." ¶ For
months track and field athletes have been linked to BALCO, the
Burlingame, Calif., lab at the center of a federal investigation
into steroid distribution. But last week the hammer finally came
down, when world 100-and 200-meter champion Kelli White
admitted having taken performance-enhancing drugs allegedly
supplied by BALCO and accepted a two-year ban imposed by the
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). White, who would have been
favored to win three medals in Athens, agreed to cooperate with
USADA in its effort to root out drug users and issued a
statement in which she said, "I anticipate other athletes will
be charged."

"What USADA did with Kelli White is tell her, 'Do you want to do
it the easy way or the hard way? Eventually, we are going to get
you,'" says Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee member
and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Lawyers involved
in USADA's investigation told SI that agency officials have
presented that same choice to other U.S. track and field
athletes, and that some could be banned as early as this week.

Since USADA officials received documents within the last month
from the federal investigation (provided by the Senate Commerce
Committee), they have moved quickly to resolve the status of
track and field athletes linked to BALCO. Their hope is to
resolve the matter before the start of the Olympic trials, on
July 9 in Sacramento.

A lawyer who has negotiated with USADA officials says that "they
believe they are on a mission to clean up the sport"--a quest
that has them investigating some of the biggest names in track,
including five-time Olympic medalist Marion Jones and her
boyfriend, 100-meter world-record holder Tim Montgomery. Among
the dozen U.S. track athletes who have been linked to the BALCO
probe, at least eight have--or would have had--a realistic chance
of winning a medal in Athens, meaning that the USOC's goal of 100
medals may need major revising. "But the medals don't matter,"
says hurdler Mark Crear, a two-time Olympic medalist. "The goal
is to send the best clean athletes."

USADA's aggressive approach has impressed and surprised
competitors such as Crear, long ago numbed by the numerous
appeals and the secretive nature of the arbitration process that
follows positive tests. "The U.S. does more out-of-competition
tests than any other country, but the perception has always been
that the top U.S. athletes are protected," says shot putter John
Godina. "You can't say that anymore."

Before 2001 White, 27, did not show the speed of a world--or even
national--champion. She never won a state title while at James
Logan High in Union City, Calif., and won no NCAA or SEC
championships while attending Tennessee. White told USADA that
she began taking a mix of steroids and EPO, a blood-boosting
hormone most often used by endurance athletes, in December 2000.
At the time she was coached by Remi Korchemny, who had worked
with White since she was 12. She improved quickly, and she won
the bronze in the 200 at the 2001 worlds in Edmonton. Two years
later (with a pregnant Jones sitting the year out), White laid
claim to the title of world's fastest woman, taking gold in the
100 and the 200 at the worlds in Paris.

After her victory in the 100 she tested positive for the
stimulant modafinil, which was not listed on the WADA roster of
prohibited substances but was nevertheless considered illicit by
the IOC. White claimed the drug was prescribed by a doctor who
worked with BALCO, to combat her narcolepsy. That explanation was
compromised last September, when federal agents raided BALCO's
offices and found modafinil. White and others were called to
testify before a grand jury, which indicted Korchemny, BALCO
founder Victor Conte and two others on conspiracy to distribute
steroids and other banned drugs to Olympic athletes and
professionals in baseball and football. (All four men have denied
wrongdoing.)

When White testified late last year, her lawyer, Jerrold D.
Colton, reviewed some of the evidence that federal investigators
had on his client. Three weeks ago, when Colton and White met
with USADA CEO Terry Madden and agency attorneys at a San
Francisco hotel, the evidence had grown to include test results
of samples Conte had sent to an independent lab. Conte allegedly
promised his clients that the drugs they were taking would be
undetectable, then had samples tested to back up his claim.
Results from those tests were among the items seized by the
government (and eventually given to USADA), and included at least
one positive test from a sample provided by White. "After seeing
the evidence, negotiations moved relatively quickly," Colton
says. "USADA was dealing from a position of strength."

After a second meeting last week, White agreed to the two-year
ban and the purging of all her victories and records since Dec.
15, 2000. "I have not only cheated myself but also my family,
friends and sport," White said in her statement. "I am sorry for
the poor choices I have made." For all the media speculation
prompted by White's agreeing to cooperate in the investigation,
Colton says his client has little to offer on the subject of
other runners' drug use. "This is not something athletes talk
about or do in front of each other," he says.

News that White had been taking performance-enhancing drugs
didn't come as a surprise to her fellow competitors. Whispers
about her sudden improvement were common, and her excuse
following the modafinil test became a running joke. But in a
system where the standard response, as Pound says, has been to
"deny, deny, deny," White's admission was refreshing.

"If there is anything honorable in what she did, that was it,"
Godina says. "If those involved are going to find redemption,
[coming clean] is the first step."

The admission allows White to slip to the background of the
scandal, while Jones, the biggest star among the track athletes
tied to BALCO, can't escape questions about it. She testified
before the grand jury last year, and in April the San Francisco
Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News reported that her name (along
with those of 11 other U.S. track and field athletes) had
appeared in a memo in the case listing athletes to whom Conte had
allegedly told investigators he had supplied steroids, a claim
his lawyers later denied. Also last month, The New York Times
reported that a $7,350 check from her bank account had been
written to Conte four years ago. (Jones denies having used or
purchased banned drugs; her lawyer says that the check was signed
by Jones's ex-husband, former shot putter C.J. Hunter, who got a
two-year ban for steroid use in 2000, and that Marion never knew
of the payment.)

After winning the 100 and the long jump on Saturday, Jones
complained that whatever she does these days "is front-page news.
Everything. From winning gold medals to [my] divorce to coaching
changes to testifying before the grand jury." She talks like
someone fighting to protect her legacy and digging in her spikes
for a battle with USADA. "Why are they trying to bring down
athletes with no positive tests?" Jones said after competing on
Saturday. "That is what we all want to know." She said she would
file a lawsuit if the agency tried to bar her from Athens, and
her lawyer sent a letter to USADA requesting a meeting to discuss
what he called the antidoping agency's "witch hunt." The sides
met on Monday in Colorado Springs.

In the past USADA moved against an athlete only after finding
drugs in his or her system. But agency protocol allows it great
latitude in proving the use of banned substances, and officials
are relying on what they call "nonanalytical positives," which
could include evidence from the BALCO investigation showing
transactions between the lab and athletes.

Two lawyers for athletes who testified before the BALCO grand
jury questioned whether some of USADA's evidence would be
admissible in court and predicted athletes would take it that
far, though precedent favors the agency. (A lawsuit filed against
USADA last summer by runner Regina Jacobs, whose positive test
for the steroid THG remains under review, was quickly dismissed
in federal court.) Pound seemed to be warning those thinking of
challenging USADA when he said, "A positive test is not the only
form of evidence. Athletes think, If I don't test positive, you
can't deal with me. Nonsense."

Promoters touted The Home Depot Invitational as a chance to "See
Athens Before It Happens," but that slogan only seemed to
underscore the biggest question facing the sport: How many of the
U.S.'s best athletes will not see Athens at all?

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY PETER READ MILLER CENTER OF ATTENTION Jones is under the microscope, but she has questions for USADA too. COLOR PHOTO: TIM WIMBORNE/REUTERS COLOR PHOTO: ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: LARRY PLACIDO/ICON SMI COLOR PHOTO: MIKE HEWITT/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: VICTAH SAILER/PHOTO RUN FIVE COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: LABELS BY SPORTS ILLUSTRATED IMAGING COLOR PHOTO: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: PETER DE VOECHT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: ROMEO GACAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: LIONEL CIRONNEAU/AP PHOTO COLOR PHOTO: ALASTAIR GRANT/AP PHOTO COLOR PHOTO: EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN J. MYERS/PHOTO RUN
COLOR PHOTO: VICTAH SAILER/PHOTO RUN COLOR PHOTO: PAUL SAKUMA/AP INDICTED BALCO's Conte (with a signed photo of Jones) allegedly supplied many top track athletes with steroids.

CAUGHT

FOUR U.S. track and field athletes linked to the BALCO case have
been banned for two years for drug use. Three of them tested
positive for THG (as did Regina Jacobs, whose case is pending);
the other, Kelli White, admitted using steroids and EPO.

KELLI WHITE
WOMEN'S WORLD 100- AND 200-METER CHAMPION
BANNED

JOHN McEWEN
U.S. HAMMER THROW RUNNER-UP
BANNED

KEVIN TOTH
U.S. SHOT PUT CHAMPION
BANNED

MELISSA PRICE
U.S. WOMEN'S HAMMER THROW CHAMPION
BANNED

REGINA JACOBS
U.S. WOMEN'S 1,500-AND 3,000-METER CHAMPION
CASE PENDING

UNDER SCRUTINY

Six of the track athletes below--all except Ramon Clay and Eric
Thomas--testified before the BALCO grand jury. According to
newspaper reports, a memorandum from an investigator in the case
listed all eight as allegedly having received steroids from
BALCO. (Each of the eight athletes has either denied the
allegation or refused to comment.)

MARION JONES
OLYMPIC 100 AND 200 GOLD MEDALIST

CHRYSTE GAINES
TWO-TIME OLYMPIC 4x100-RELAY MEDALIST

ALVIN HARRISON
OLYMPIC 400 SILVER MEDALIST

CALVIN HARRISON
OLYMPIC 4x400-RELAY GOLD MEDALIST

RAMON CLAY
2002 U.S. CHAMPION IN THE 200

ERIC THOMAS
U.S. CHAMPION IN THE 400 HURDLES

TIM MONTGOMERY
WORLD-RECORD HOLDER IN THE 100

MICHELLE COLLINS
2003 INDOOR WORLD CHAMPION IN THE 200

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)