Lewis, Joyner-Kersee Seek Gold; Harris Seeks Help
ATLANTA (AP) _ As two Olympic greats seek gold a final time, a fallen Olympic hero once again is seeking help.
While Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee prepared for today’s opening of the U.S. track and field trials, hurdler Danny Harris dropped out of the meet while announcing he had relapsed into cocaine use.
Harris, the 1984 silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles and a favorite to capture a spot on the U.S. Olympic team this year, said he flunked a drug test last month after winning a Grand Prix race in Brazil in 48.08 seconds _ the fastest time in the world this year.
Harris, who missed the 1992 Games while serving a two-year suspension for cocaine use, said in a written statement: ``I accept full responsibility for my actions. It is my intention, whether I am or am not able to compete again in the future, to meet this problem head on.″
Lewis, trying to become the first male American track and field athlete to make a fifth Olympic team, said news of Harris’ relapse ``feels like a punch in the stomach.″
``He’s a good man, and that’s what we need to save,″ Lewis said. ``The career is secondary.″
Seventeen days shy of his 35th birthday, Lewis is calm as he approaches the event that four years ago seemed to signal the end of his Olympic sprinting career.
Athletes must finish in the top three at the U.S. trials to qualify for the Olympics, except in relay events. Lewis, an eight-time gold medalist, failed to do make the 100 or 200 races in 1992.
He made the U.S. squad as a long jumper, and won that event along with a relay title in Barcelona. But his reign as the sprint king, including gold medals in the 100 in 1984 and 1988, was over.
The last few years have been difficult, as the next generation of sprinters tries to push Lewis aside. After showing flashes of his old speed this spring, though, he’s again a top contender in the 100 and 200 _ as well as the long jump.
``I’ve run well this spring and I know I can run well enough to make the team. I go into this meet pretty relaxed,″ he said. ``The whole season is set up for this meet.″
When Lewis competes in the opening two rounds of the 100 tonight, Joyner-Kersee already should be more than halfway toward a spot on her fourth Olympic team.
Joyner-Kersee, who has won the past two Olympic heptathlons, is again the favorite this summer. Despite nagging injuries the past two years, she is clearly the best American in the event and should have little trouble qualifying.
``My ultimate goal,″ said Joyner-Kersee, who also has a gold medal in the long jump, ``is to make the 1996 Olympic team and to finish my career on American soil.″
The first four events of the heptathlon are today, with the remaining three on Saturday.
Tonight’s highlights also include the first two rounds of the women’s 100, which should evolve into a duel between world champion Gwen Torrence and 1992 Olympic champion Gail Devers, if Devers can overcome a series of injuries that have restricted her in recent months.
Lawrence Johnson, who set the American record in the pole vault last month while competing for Tennessee and then easily won the NCAA title, was the favorite as qualifying was set to begin today.
A major concern of U.S. track and field officials was alleviated Thursday when the sport’s world governing body said it will not disqualify athletes who compete against people fighting drug suspensions at the trials.
Heptathlete Gea Johnson and as many as eight other athletes currently under drug suspensions could seek temporary restraining orders allowing them to compete in the trials, which last until June 23.
The International Amateur Athletic Federation threatened to disqualify athletes that competed against anyone such as Johnson, saying they would be ``contaminated″ by competing against her.
Such a scenario would have made it virtually impossible to hold U.S. Olympic trials in such events, because anyone trying to make the Olympic squad would immediately be disqualified from the Olympics and other races by competing against a drug-suspended athlete.