- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

Sports officials are running for cover after the bust of pharmacist Victor Conte and his Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

Out of the storm have come reports four American track stars who competed in the World Championships in Paris in August were BALCO clients who failed drug tests. No big surprise.

In the coming months, these athletes may — or may not — be suspended or kicked out of the sport.

The fact that the sport of track and field is filthy is yesterday’s news. The fact that some of the loudest critics of drug abuse have been some of the worst offenders is getting old — Carl Lewis, Brian Mitchell, among others.

Since Ben Johnson and the 1988 Seoul Olympics, there was continued speculation America’s sweetheart and double world recordholder Florence Griffith Joyner was dirty, too.

The latest star to fall is America’s most successful middle-distance runner of the decade, Regina Jacobs. For years, after she turned 35 and then 40, the rail-thin Jacobs with the Stanford MBA and the charming smile thrilled track fans around the world.

But few athletes drew as much speculation over suspected drug use as Jacobs.

That she maintained rapid improvement into her late 30s is not enough to convict her of using performance enhancing drugs. Her “raccoon” eyes, a tell-tale sign of drug use, also is not enough evidence. Pulling out of the 2000 Sydney Olympics a month before the Games and blaming it on asthma when it could have been the advent of new drug testing at the Games, still is not enough.

I don’t think she ever denied doing drugs but at least in the interviews I have attended, she sidestepped the questions as well as she ditched competitors half her age.

If Jacobs’ “B” sample confirms the positive “A” sample, her storied track career will be over.

So I ask, was taking illegal designer drugs worth the risk? Maybe. Would she have been a player in the 2004 Athens Olympics? Absolutely.

Instead, she could end up validating the criticism of her many incredulous detractors.

Was it for the fame, the dozen or so national championships and the trips to the Worlds and the Olympics? Was it for the prize money and the sponsorship? Was it because Jacobs thought she was smarter than everybody else and could get away with it?

The rise to stardom was long and laborious. The fall will be quick and track fans around the world will revel. All the women who wanted to be so fit and trim like Jacobs, who avoided eating cheesecake because she said that’s what made her thin, will hate her even more.

If the gain was worth the consequences of getting busted, I’d like Jacobs or anybody else to explain it to me.

Go to the polls — A special meeting of USA Track & Field Potomac Valley has been called for Nov.15, 6p.m. at the Ramada Inn in New Carrollton for election of officers as well as sport and officials committee leaders.

This is an important meeting because several positions will be contested, such as president, four vice presidents, secretary, treasurer and eight chairmen.

Check the USA Track & Field Web site, under associations, to see how to submit nominations.

Why should you care? Because USATF is divided into 57 regional entities across the nation, and the one that affects the Washington metropolitan area is PVA. This organization sanctions events and gives financial support to many of the area’s track and field and long distance running and race-walking activities.

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