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DRUGS AND TRACK
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 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.