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SHOWCASE OF GAMES HAS TURNED INTO A MESS

SHARE SHOWCASE OF GAMES HAS TURNED INTO A MESS

Five weeks before the start of the Summer Games, the Olympics' showcase sport appears in turmoil.

Doping scandals, court battles and scheduling disputes have dominated track and field in the buildup to Barcelona.The controversies raise questions about the accuracy of drug tests, the enforcement of suspensions and the ultimate jurisdiction over the sport and its athletes.

Two superstars, 400-meter world record-holder Butch Reynolds and world sprint champion Katrin Krabbe, are making news for trying to beat drug charges rather than trying to beat their best times.

The Reynolds case has challenged the authority of the sport's world governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

Reynolds, suspended by the IAAF in 1990 for alleged steroid use, turned to U.S. courts to fight the ban. In Columbus, Ohio, on Friday, a federal judge cleared him to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials this weekend in New Orleans, but an appeals court quickly overturned that decision and upheld the ban.

Less than 24 hours before his races were scheduled to begin, Reynolds appealed successfully to the Supreme Court, which cleared the way for him to run. The races, meanwhile, were set back to Sunday because of the legal maneuvering.

The IAAF, whose arbitration panel recently upheld the ban on Reynolds, has vowed to keep him out of the Olympics and threatened to bar any athlete who runs against him.

"The IAAF sees (the court decision) as challenging the competence of the ruling of an international sports body," said IAAF general secretary Istvan Gyulai. "It is a decision which may lead to chaos. . . . This might lead to the suspension of all U.S. 400 meter runners at the Olympic Games."

Krabbe, world champion in the 100 and 200 meters, was banned by the German track federation for alleged manipulation of urine samples - only to be reinstated when the federation's legal panel found no evidence of wrongdoing. The case will be heard by the IAAF's arbitration panel June 27-29.

"We are very, very upset," said Primo Nebiolo, the IAAF president. "We are a family and this is as though our children have become lost. When something like this happens, we must stop and say, `Why did it happen?'

"We have to face the problem and say, `Was it education? Was it a problem with the rules? Why have they fallen into trouble?' For us, this is a tragedy.

"We love and respect athletes like Katrin Krabbe and Butch Reynolds and it hurts us that they are in trouble," Nebiolo said. "It's like when one of your children rebels against you. We are sad, but we have an obligation to respect our rules. The rules are the rules, and if we don't respect them we can't move forward."

Also involved in a doping controversy is Delisa Floyd, the two-time U.S. national champion in the women's 800 who received a four-year ban in 1991. She claims the U.S. Olympic drug hotline told her the banned substance was legal. But a judge in Denver refused to lift the ban, saying the responsibility lies with the individual.

The stability of the IAAF is being tested by the whole Reynolds affair.

The IAAF's stance on Reynolds has the backing of the International Olympic Committee. The drug test was conducted at an IOC-accredited laboratory in Paris.

Gyulai said the issue boils down to who should have the authority to govern the sport and enforce its rules.

"Should a court in Ohio have the highest authority in athletics?" he said. "What would happen if the jurisdictions of all 200 member federations challenged the IAAF's ruling?"