Cocaine Sidelines Danny Harris Again
Jun. 14, 1996
AMES, Iowa (AP) _ Hurdler Danny Harris, his Olympic hopes dashed by cocaine use once before, is seeing it happen again.
Harris admitted Thursday he tested positive for cocaine after winning a race in Brazil last month and said he'll skip the Olympic trials, which begin Friday in Atlanta.
The 1984 Olympic silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles, Harris missed the 1992 Games while serving a two-year suspension for cocaine use. He would have been among the favorites to earn one of the three spots on this year's team.
Harris, who had been undergoing drug abuse counseling, said in a statement faxed to news outlets that he ``experienced a relapse'' in late April. Although he was not banned from the trials, Harris said he would not compete while track's governing bodies, the International Amateur Athletic Federation and USA Track and Field, decide whether he should be banned.
Harris has until June 21 to provide a written response to the positive test.
``It is my desire to continue competing in the sport, but I don't intend to make future plans for competition until USATF and IAAF make a ruling about my future,'' he said.
In addition to ending his hopes of making the Olympic team, Harris' withdrawal from competition will cost him thousands of dollars in earnings on the European track circuit this summer.
Harris, 30, said that regardless of whether he is allowed to run again, he intends to confront his drug problem ``in a forthright manner.'' He could not be reached for additional comment.
The IAAF suspended Harris for four years after he tested positive for cocaine following the 1992 U.S. indoor championships. The suspension later was reduced to two years.
His latest positive test came May 5 after he won a Grand Prix race in Rio Janeiro in 48.08 seconds _ the fastest time in the world this year. He was told of the results Tuesday.
``Obviously, this is a social problem that faces many of us,'' said Iowa State coach Steve Lynn, who has been working with Harris. ``It just illustrates how powerful this drug is. He's not the first that's had a hard time with it.
``How many doctors, lawyers, top executives have faced this type of thing? The pressure gets to them and they remember the relief and the release it gives them.''
Lynn said Harris had been running well and had an excellent chance of qualifying for the Olympics. Harris had finished sixth at a Grand Prix meet in Atlanta last month, then bounced back to win the 400 hurdles at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon.
The Iowa State coach said Harris has succeeded in spite of his battle with cocaine.
``This is not what got him to the level he was at,'' Lynn said. ``You go back to Ben Johnson, he was who he was because of what he did. This has cost Danny before and it could end up costing him again. Obviously, it cost him a shot at the Olympics again.''
Harris burst on the track scene as a freshman at Iowa State in 1984. He won the first of his three straight NCAA championships that year, then finished second to Edwin Moses at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
In 1987, Harris ended Moses' 107-race winning streak, then won the silver medal at the World Championships. Favored to win the gold in Barcelona in 1988, Harris pulled a hamstring a week before the trials, finished fifth and didn't make the team.
Harris was still in top form when hit with his suspension in 1992. He didn't train at all while he was banned but had been making a strong comeback that included several impressive victories in Europe last summer.
``There's always speculation on whether you can come back and do what you did before,'' Harris had said last month. ``I knew I was good before I left, and I thought if I applied myself when I came back, I would be as good. I think I've certainly proven that.''
Lynn praised Harris for his honesty in revealing the test result, something he didn't have to do.
``He could have just kept his mouth shut, gone down and competed, made the team and gone to Europe and made money in several meets there,'' Lynn said. ``He could have even stonewalled the process. It's conceivable that it could have been stonewalled until after the Olympic Games.''