Infuriated, bitter and fighting back tears, Mary Slaney says she will not surrender her reputation as a drug-free athlete without a fight.
America's greatest female distance runner finally has spoken out about leaked reports that she tested positive for excessive levels of the male sex hormone testosterone at last year's U.S. Olympic Trials.She vehemently denies she ever has taken performance-enhancing drugs and says the agony she has endured as a result of the reports is worse than anything that has occurred in her star-crossed career, including her infamous fall at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
"This is an attack on my integrity," Slaney told The Register-Guard. "It is an attack on everything that I believe to be good in the sport.
"I feel like this whole thing is going to taint everything I've ever done athletically."
She said she feels betrayed after giving so much to the sport for so many years.
"I don't feel like giving anything in the sport right now," Slaney said.
In a tearful interview aired by CBS during the network's telecast of Sunday's Prefontaine Classic, Slaney repeated her denial that she had taken performance-enhancing substances.
"I have never taken anything that's banned," she said. "That's absurd. I haven't done what I've been accused of doing."
Slaney, who has made a remarkable comeback at age 38, told CBS that there is scientific evidence that shows the levels of testosterone in her body can be explained.
"We have research and science to support this. The IAAF has it, too," she said, referring to the international governing body for track and field.
In her interview with The Register-Guard, her hometown newspaper, she predicted she would be vindicated.
"The bottom line is that eventually this will end up that I took absolutely no performance-enhancing substances," Slaney said. "Because I haven't, I don't care how many people, or how many hearings, or how many boards we have to go through, this will be proven."
She also vowed to find out who leaked word of her test results to The New York Times in violation of the protocol of USA Track & Field, the sport's governing body.
"If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to find out who it was, and they're going to pay their dues," Slaney said. "They're forgetting I'm a competitive person on every level. This is my entire life they're dealing with, and I don't take that lightly."
Slaney's attorney, Doriane Lambelet Coleman, has charged that the leak came from as many as two members of the USATF Custodial Board, which could dismiss the case or suspend Slaney from further hearings and appeals.
Coleman said that, considering the leak, she is concerned Slaney can get a fair hearing.
Slaney and her representatives have criticized the board for taking so long to deal with the case, especially because she has passed several subsequent random tests.
Slaney said she has the same feeling that she did when she was attacked while running on a bike path in Eugene in 1985.
"I felt like I was violated, that something was taken from me," she said. "That same feeling is here now.
"You only do what I'm doing now, at my age, because you like what you do, and I do this because I love the sport . . . I've made Olympic teams in the past. I've broken world and American records. I've been drug-tested hundreds of times, and at my age you don't start taking performance-enhancing drugs to see what you can get out of the sport."
Slaney said she feels betrayed by the sport because the doping guideline she's suspected of violating is considered acceptable when applied to male athletes. Coleman contends that the doping guideline issue amounts to "bad science" and that more research is needed for older female athletes.