SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
December 14, 1992
Giant Deal
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December 14, 1992


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Reynolds, the world-record holder in the 400 meters, had sued the IAAF over his suspension in November 1990 because of a positive test for anabolic steroids. Athletes charged with drug offenses often protest their innocence, but the IAAF set a world record of its own for foul-ups with its handling of Reynolds's urine sample and by granting him only a perfunctory appeals hearing. These lapses prompted Kinneary to conclude that the IAAF had "defamed" Reynolds, had acted with "malice" and "a spirit of revenge" and had "purposefully avoided the truth" in the case.

The IAAF argues that it can't submit to the judicial whims of each of its 200-odd member nations, but allowing it to have a free hand is a frightening prospect. This, after all, is an organization whose president, Primo Nebiolo, was implicated in a cheating scandal in which a fellow Italian, long jumper Giovanni Evangelisti, won an undeserved bronze medal at the 1987 world championships in Rome. It's also an outfit so dismissive of athletes' rights that when a group of agents suggested that some of its TV boodle be given out as prize money at the 1993 and '95 world championships, IAAF vice-president Lamine Diack of Senegal replied, "The federations deserve the money before the athlete. The federations make the athlete."

When Reynolds won an earlier court order allowing him to compete in last June's U.S. Olympic trials, the IAAF vindictively extended his suspension, which was supposed to have ended on Aug. 12, to Dec. 31. After he qualified for the U.S. team as an alternate in the 4 x 400 relay, the IAAF blocked him from going to Barcelona. Following last week's verdict, the IAAF threatened to further extend his suspension and sue him for libel. Reynolds, however, may have the last laugh. Though the IAAF considers itself beyond the reach of U.S. courts, he could get a good chunk of the $27.3 million Kinneary awarded him by attaching funds owed the IAAF by its U.S. sponsors, which include Coca-Cola, VISA, Mars and Mobil.

Labor-Saving Device
At a family gathering in Somerset, N.J., a grandmother visiting from Florida was coaxed by the young ones into doing something she had never done before: get on an exercise bike. The woman nervously settled onto the seat, waited a moment and then bravely said, "All right, you can turn it on now."

Ah, Freedom

Sources told SI last week that the NFL and its players' union were holding talks about a plan to grant free agency to players after four years of service, but that two issues remained unresolved: 1) The owners want star players exempted from free agency while the union wants only one exemption per team, and 2) the two sides can't agree on a compensation scheme that would allow players whose contracts expire before they reach four years of service to sign with other teams.

The best thing about a settlement is that it would remove the need for the owners to keep concocting flimsy arguments against free agency. Already forced to abandon the league's long-held position that free agency would create a handful of super teams that would run roughshod over opponents—a notion disproved by baseball's 16 years of free agency—NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has lately taken to saying that the real danger is that "doormat" teams would be created. In an interview with The Washington Post, Tagliabue warned that free agency would lead to "blowout games" because players on poorer teams would surely "jump ship."

The only problem with Tagliabue's argument is that it's wrong. All indications are that NFL free agents would go where the best opportunities lie. In fact, the team that led the NFL in signing Plan B free agents until that scheme was ruled illegal as overly restrictive last September was the Green Bay Packers, hardly a powerhouse. Nevertheless, Tagliabue's argument was recently echoed by an NFL team executive who, in an affidavit submitted by the league in its legal wrangling with the union, direly warned that free agency would upset "competitive balance." The executive so eager to maintain such balance—no doormats, please—was Sam Jankovich, chief executive officer of the New England Patriots.

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