Mitchell Cleared of Doping Charge
NEW YORK (AP) _ For Olympian Dennis Mitchell, it was a double reason to celebrate.
On his daughter’s third birthday, Mitchell learned he was cleared of a doping violation by a three-member USA Track & Field Doping Hearing Board. The unanimous decision, announced Tuesday after a two-day hearing, clears Mitchell for competition in the United States.
He must be cleared by the International Track and Field Federation, the world governing body of the sport, to be able to compete outside the United States.
``I’m free!″ Mitchell said when he learned of the decision. ``It’s been a long, uphill battle. Once I got to the peak of everything, I was happy it was all over. I’m exhausted, but I’m happy.″
The 32-year-old Mitchell was given a two-year suspension by the IAAF for testing positive for testosterone in an out-of-competition test April 1 at his home in Gainesville, Fla.
A member of the gold medal-winning 400-meter relay team and bronze medalist in the 100 in the 1992 Olympics, Mitchell has been the chairman of the Athletes Advisory Committee of USA Track & Field since December 1996.
``There were days I wanted to cry, but my little girl (Imani) and little boy (Malachi, 2) were sitting in front of me, so I couldn’t cry,″ Mitchell said. ``My girlfriend, Keishia Story, and my mother, Lenora, have been there for me. I feel relieved to get to this point. It’s been a long time coming.
``Just before the hearing over the weekend, I broke down and I didn’t think I could make it. But my girlfriend and my mother and Suja (Thomas, his lawyer) lifted me up. They’ve been unbelievably great through this whole thing.
``I heard the good news on her birthday and we celebrated her birthday and my exoneration on the same day,″ he said.
Because the case still must go before the IAAF. USA Track and Field head Craig Masback would say only that he was happy for Mitchell.
``Athletes are innocent until proven guilty. Here is an athlete who was exonerated,″ Masback said.
Mitchell called the suspension ``the darkest hour of my life.″
``My dedication to this sport and to society would not and could not allow me to do such a thing,″ Mitchell said. ``This is both morally and ethically unacceptable to me. I would have never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen to me.″
As the president of the USATF’s Athletes Advisory Committee, the athletes’ voice in the national governing body, Mitchell has been an outspoken advocate of keeping drugs out of the sport.
``Overnight that has been taken away from me,″ Mitchell had said. ``The things that have happened to me in the last few months will forever affect all parts of my life. This can never be taken away.″
``Even going to practice is different now,″ Mitchell said Tuesday. ``The stress is off, I’m working toward next season and I’m working with it now with a big ray of hope.
``I thought the Goodwill Games (in July) would be my last meet. Now I can continue to do what I plan to do, that is, compete until 2001.
``I can’t explain how happy I am.″