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Off track

Greene, U.S. coach still at odds over relay lineup

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Latest: Wednesday September 27, 2000 12:02 PM

 

SYDNEY, Australia -- Passing sticks with U.S. relays, where every day brings a new crisis.

Men: U.S. 100-meter gold medalist Maurice Greene will run all rounds of the 4x100-meter relay. The order will be Jon Drummond to Tim Montgomery to Bernard Williams to Greene.

But just because Mo is running doesn't mean he's happy with the way the situation has unfolded. "I'm running and I'm running the rounds because I want to help win a relay gold medal for my country," Mo told me this week. That doesn't mean everything is perfect. When U.S. coach John Chaplin announced the relay lineup on Sunday afternoon in Sydney, he said that Greene might not run the early rounds, "because he's a little sore."

The only way in which Greene is sore is that he's hacked off at Chaplin. "John Chaplin doesn't know what he's talking about," Greene told me. Early Sunday afternoon Chaplin, the retired former Washington State coach, brought together the sprinters eligible to run in the four-by-one in a room at the Olympic Village. Greene asked Chaplin to leave, so that the runners could meet privately. During that meeting, Drummond, probably the best leadoff relay runner in history, volunteered to step aside, so that some of the others could get medals. The rest of the group offered Chaplin the following scenario: Ken Brokenburr to Montgomery to Brian Lewis to Williams in the prelims and Lewis to Williams to Curtis Johnson to Greene in the final. Six guys get medals.

Chaplin came back into the room and said that he didn't like that plan, picked his own team and walked back out.

Greene is angry at Chaplin for the power play. Greene wanted to keep together the HSI foursome of Drummond-Johnson-Williams-Mo that ran 37.65 in Berlin on Sept. 1. He wanted Johnson, who was eliminated in the semis of the 100, to have a spot. "I just wish Curtis had made the final so they would have had to pick him," Mo said. "I'm worried about this relay. The whole thing has been a headache, and I'll bet I get the stick behind. But I'll run somebody down."

Women: Marion Jones will have to run somebody down, as well. With Gail Devers getting injured in the 100-meter hurdles Wednesday night in Sydney, the women's four-by-one has a gimpy Devers, a gimpy Inger Miller, Jones, and a shaky pool of others that includes Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry and Chryste Gaines. "And they're going to be running against four healthy Bahamians," said John Smith, the HSI club coach. One of the Bahamians, Chandra Sturrup, trains in Raleigh with Jones and has been talking trash since the Bahamas won the world title against a Mrs. Jones-free U.S. team last August in Seville. "We should be able to win it regardless of who runs [for the U.S.]," Sturrup said Wednesday night.

 
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Smith said that Miller looked "beautiful" in training on Wednesday and will almost certainly run in the relay. Funny, Miller told me one day earlier that she didn't feel great at all and was worried about risking somebody else's medal shot. (Of course, if she runs, then people will stop saying she bailed out of the Olympics to avoid vigilant drug testing). Devers is more doubtful, with a sciatic nerve injury that caused her to stop short of the fifth hurdle in the semifinals. Edwards and Gaines haven't looked great here. Count on Jones to get the stick 5-10 meters down; if she wins, it will be breathtaking.

The daily drug report

On Wednesday morning in Sydney, women's hammer throw world record-holder and two-time world champion Mihaela Melinte was pulled off the track just prior to the start of qualifying in her event. It turns out Melinte, the heavy favorite to win a gold medal, had tested positive for a banned substance and wouldn't be allowed to compete at the Games. A dirty athlete gets hauled off in public for drug ban. How ugly is this?

Melinte tested positive at the Milan IAAF meeting on June 7. The Romanian Federation was notified of Melinte's positive on Sept. 25. USA Track and Field CEO Craig Masback, whose organization has been roasted this week for its foot-dragging, saw considerable irony in this huge gap between testing and notification. He has a point: It is ridiculous that Melinte was allowed to walk onto the track Wednesday morning.

But here's an interesting twist. C.J. Hunter was a member of the U.S. Olympic team until Sept. 11, when he withdrew from the Games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Let's suppose the Big Man hadn't had the surgery. USAT&F was notified in late August that Hunter had tested positive for nandrolone at the Bislett Games on July 28. (There were three other C.J. nandrolone positives: two during out of competition testing in Milan and Oslo and one after the Zurich Golden League meet on Aug. 11, but he didn't learn about those until this week.) Let's suppose that the media didn't learn of Hunter's positive test, and it all stayed quiet. Could he have competed in the Games with an active drug bust hanging over his head?

The answer is no. But how would it have all played out? Had he remained on course to compete in Sydney after the drug notification in late August, Hunter would have been given expedited hearings under USAT&F policy. If he had been cleared by USAT&F, Hunter would have been eligible to compete in the U.S., but not internationally because the IAAF doesn't recognize USAT&F arbitration. He could have come to Sydney with Johnnie Cochran in tow and fought in court for the right to compete. He could have walked out onto the field and been pulled off, like Melinte.

Point is: The Hunter Affair is pretty ugly, but it could have been even uglier.

Dvorak hurting

World-record holder Tomas Dvorak is in seventh place after the first day of the decathlon and it's obvious the guy is hurting. He had a sore knee when I visited him in Prague in May for a Sports Illustrated feature, and it looks to have gotten worse. He's a great second-day guy when healthy, but he's 260 points down to American Chris Huffins and 252 to Great Britain's Dean Macey, which is a huge hill to climb.

Magical Monday

Last Monday night was the single greatest night of track and field I have ever witnessed. At the time I was too swamped writing this week's SI cover story to file for the web. I just have to say this now: Cathy Freeman, Michael Johnson, Gabriela Szabo and Sonia O'Sullivan, Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat, Maria Mutola, Jonathan Edwards, Stacy Dragila. Man alive. It was so good I had tears in my eyes.

One last prediction

Marion Jones is money. She'll win the 200 meters Thursday in a breeze and I like her in the long jump, too. She's gifted and one tough lady.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden is in Sydney covering the Olympic track and field competition for the magazine and CNNSI.com. Check back daily to read Layden's behind-the-scenes reports from Down Under.

 
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