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Foschi Rates Herself Fourth-Best in 800 Free

March 11, 1996

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Jessica Foschi has caused more of a stir in legal circles lately than she has in the swimming pool for the 800-meter freestyle.

``I haven’t been happy with an 800 since the U.S. Open,″ she said. ``I need a swim that feels good. I just want to do a best time.″

The 15-year-old swimmer made her final attempt to earn an Olympic berth Monday night in the 800 freestyle. The legal wrangling involving Foschi’s suspension for a positive drug test may linger, but the scandal was likely to fade if she didn’t make the Atlanta Games.

Foschi rated her chances as poor against world record-holder Janet Evans and 15-year-old Brooke Bennett, the fastest qualifier.

``If they’re going to go best times, then I don’t think I’m in,″ Foschi told a U.S. Swimming spokesman after Sunday’s preliminaries. ``A good goal for me is to be in the top four.″

Foschi qualified sixth with a time of 8 minutes, 44.14 seconds in her best event. She won the 800 in the U.S. Open last December after a performance-enhancing drug was detected in testing at the summer nationals.

Her lifetime best is 8:40.00, compared to 8:29.21 for Bennett and Evans’ world mark of 8:16.22.

Evans soundly defeated Bennett in the 400 free Friday. The 24-year-old quadruple gold medalist qualified for her third straight Olympic team, while Bennett finished fourth.

Bennett topped the 800 preliminaries in 8:35.80 seconds. Trina Jackson was second in 8:37.65 and Evans third in 8:41.77.

Like Foschi, Bennett was facing her last chance to qualify for the Atlanta Games. She was favored to win the 400 free, then had to calm down her coach and mother when she finished fourth.

``Everybody was a little bit more upset,″ Bennett said. ``I just came out of the water and thought, `It’s over. I can’t change it. Now I’ve got the 800 to come.′ It gives me more time to do what I can really do.″

Foschi, of Old Brookville, N.Y., missed in her first two races. She was ninth in the 200 free and fifth in the 400 free.

Foschi claims she’s never taken any banned substances. Since testing positive last summer, she has been put on probation, then suspended for two years, and then put back on probation by U.S. Swimming officials.

Even if she qualified for Atlanta, her entry in the Olympics would still have to be approved by the sport’s international governing body. FINA’s rules call for a two-year suspension for a positive drug test.

But last month, FINA gave Samantha Riley of Australia only a ``strong warning″ after she tested positive for a drug contained in a headache medicine.

Byron Davis of Cleveland, trying to become the first black to make a U.S. Olympic swimming team, failed to qualify for the 50 freestyle final Monday. He finished 14th in the preliminaries.

Davis was the quickest qualifier in Sunday’s 100 butterfly. In the final, he reached the halfway point in a blistering 24.05 seconds, but tightened up in the final strokes and finished fourth.

Tom Jager’s shot at a record fourth U.S. Olympic team seems unlikely after he qualified last for the 50 free. The world record holder swam 22.93 seconds in the preliminaries, well off leading qualifier Gary Hall Jr.’s time of 22.40.

Meanwhile, Tom Dolan put himself in good position to swim his third individual event in Atlanta. He qualified second in the 200 individual medley to Ron Karnaugh, whose father had a fatal heart attack during the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Olympics.

Beth Botsford, one of three 14-year-olds already on the Olympic team, was the fastest qualifier in the 200 backstroke.

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