The Olympics: Monday

Drug scandals dominate with tales of a doped-up Romanian pixie and and a failed test by Marion Jones' shot-putter husband.



Kerry Lauerman
September 25, 2000 6:44PM (UTC)

On a day when two huge stars -- American Michael Johnson and Australian Cathy Freeman -- both won gold in the 400-meter race, the Games were suddenly plunged into scandal, with positive drug tests smearing the reputations of the Games' cutest champion and the husband of its most-hyped star.

Sixteen-year-old Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan, who took gold medals in both the team and the all-around competition, apparently showed "positive signs" of the banned stimulant ephedrine. The Romanian team has filed a protest, and it wasn't immediately clear what would happen to the 4-foot-10 Raducan -- or her medals. Besides her two golds, she also won a silver medal in the vault. The scandal threatens to destroy Romania's remarkable gymnastics success in the Games, which included a sweep of the women's three all-around medals. One grim upside for the American team: If Romania is forced to default, the fourth-place U.S. team will be awarded the bronze, which would become the only medal won by American gymnasts.

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Hunter and 1988 U.S. Olympians
Just before the Raducan news broke, news came that Marion Jones' husband, world-champion shot-putter C.J. Hunter, had failed a drug test in July, according to a story broken by the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which reported that "the revelation makes a mockery of Hunter's statement [that] he was forced to withdraw from the Games -- where he and Jones were expected to each win gold -- because of a knee injury." Sources later confirmed to other major news outlets that Hunter had tested positive for nandrolone and testosterone.

That report immediately prompted another searing accusation, by the head of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission, who accused -- a mere 12 years after the fact -- U.S. track and field officials of covering up five positive drug tests before the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Oddly, commission head Prince Alexandre de Merode could not remember who any of the athletes were. "It's possible they were winners. I know it wasn't just anyone," he said. Hmm. The U.S. Olympic Committee, however, pointed out that the case involved eight U.S. track athletes who tested positive for traces of ephedrine, contained in a nutritional supplement called Super Charge and nonprescription cold remedies. The eight athletes have never been specifically identified.

Lots of finger-pointing
The Games have already been plagued by actual charges of drug use (the Bulglarian weightlifting team, for one) and plenty of accusations. Chief among the finger pointers is American swimmer/crybaby Amy Van Dyken, who, having failed to duplicate her four golds in the 1996 Games in Atlanta, has been quick to voice doubts about the three gold medals and world-record times of Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn. "When I stood on the medal stand in '96, my tears were real," Van Dyken was quoted as saying by the Associated Press after Bruijn won gold in the 50 meters and Van Dyken finished fourth. "I don't think her tears were real." When she was beaten by the Dutch swimmer in the 50-meter semifinals, she was recorded by NBC as saying that she, too, could have won the race if she were "a man." Somebody should point a finger at Van Dyken -- preferably a big fat middle one.

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NBC did little but bolster Van Dyken's scurrilous charges when host Bob Costas, during the broadcast's Saturday night show, followed Van Dyken's sniveling allegations with a warning to viewers that many of the athletes competing in the Games are probably using drugs and will never get caught. Sure, Bob, and there are probably honest athletes who get defamed on international television for nothing but great performances. Last week, Costas also, with no discernible evidence, raised the possibility that French runner/privacy nut Marie-Jose Perec -- who left the Games and returned to France after a bizarre story of being harassed in her hotel room -- had actually left the Games because she feared failing a drug test. Maybe a fat libel suit would wise that guy up.

Johnson, Freeman breeze
Johnson, meanwhile, became the first man ever to repeat a win of the Olympic 400-meter run Monday (43.84), breezing to victory with an almost half-second victory over silver medalist Alvin Harrison, also of the United States. Johnson dominates the 400 meters like Carl Lewis dominated the long jump, and has been the unquestioned No. 1 in the event practically since the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain. Later in the week, Johnson will go for his sixth Olympic gold over three Olympics when he teams up with Harrison and others in the 4-by-400-meter relay.

When Johnson and Maurice Greene (who won the 100 meters Saturday) pulled up lame in the 200-meter final at the U.S. trials (after trash-talking each other for months), one of the year's most exciting -- and, it seems, one of track's only -- face-offs was lost. Instead, both men won easily in Sydney, and their only showdown will be between their publicists after the Games as they compete for post-Olympics endorsements.

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Australian star Cathy Freeman also won big in the 400 meters Monday (49.11), an even bigger victory for Australia than the swimming medals produced by favorite son Ian Thorpe. Freeman, who lighted the Olympic flame during the opening ceremonies, is an Aborigine who has frequently been central to conversations about the racial divide in Australia. In 1994, after winning the 400 meters in the Commonwealth Games, she wrapped herself in the Aboriginal flag, and a major race row erupted. And recently she took the Australian government to task for its refusal to apologize for the "stolen generation," Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their families.

Medal tally

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United States 23 (gold) 14 (silver) 21 (bronze) 58 (total)

China 21 14 13 48

Russia 14 14 19 47

Australia 12 20 11 43

France 12 13 6 31

Germany 5 9 15 29

Italy 11 6 11 28

Romania 10 4 5 19

Britain 6 8 5 19

South Korea 4 6 8 18

Netherlands 7 5 3 15

Ukraine 3 6 5 14

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Japan 5 4 4 13

Belarus 1 1 8 10

Poland 4 4 1 9

Bulgaria 4 3 2 9

Cuba 3 4 2 9

Switzerland 1 5 2 8

Sweden 3 3 1 7

Greece 2 4 1 7

Canada 1 1 5 7

Czech Republic 2 1 3 6

Indonesia 1 3 2 6

Hungary 3 1 1 5

Spain 3 0 2 5

Slovakia 1 3 1 5

Brazil 0 3 2 5

New Zealand 1 0 3 4

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Belgium 0 2 2 4

Austria 2 1 0 3

Finland 2 1 0 3

Lithuania 2 0 1 3

Ethiopia 1 0 2 3

Denmark 0 2 1 3

Jamaica 0 1 2 3

South Africa 0 1 2 3

Taiwan 0 1 2 3

Slovenia 2 0 0 2

Turkey 2 0 0 2

Mexico 1 1 0 2

Croatia 1 0 1 2

Latvia 1 0 1 2

North Korea 0 1 1 2

Norway 0 1 1 2

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Costa Rica 0 0 2 2

Estonia 0 0 2 2

Georgia 0 0 2 2

Azerbaijan 1 0 0 1

Colombia 1 0 0 1

Iran 1 0 0 1

Mozambique 1 0 0 1

Argentina 0 1 0 1

Ireland 0 1 0 1

Moldova 0 1 0 1

Nigeria 0 1 0 1

Trinidad and Tobago 0 1 0 1

Uruguay 0 1 0 1

Yugoslavia 0 1 0 1

Algeria 0 0 1 1

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Armenia 0 0 1 1

Barbados 0 0 1 1

Iceland 0 0 1 1

India 0 0 1 1

Kenya 0 0 1 1

Kuwait 0 0 1 1

Kyrgyzstan 0 0 1 1

Portugal 0 0 1 1

Qatar 0 0 1 1

Thailand 0 0 1 1


Kerry Lauerman

Kerry Lauerman is Salon's Editor in Chief. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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