INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Mary Slaney was cleared of drug use by U.S. track authorities Tuesday after more than a year of uncertainty that sidelined and embittered the nation's most prominent woman distance runner.
The ruling by the hearing board of USA Track and Field, the sport's domestic governing body, came during the weekend in Chicago.
"Mary Slaney has been one of our outstanding athletes, and I am looking forward to seeing her compete once again," USATF chief executive officer Craig Masback said. "I am also pleased that our process worked to afford her a fair hearing."
Slaney was also suspended the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the international authority. However, Slaney's lawyer said the IAAF suspension stemmed from the USATF refusal to act on the case for so long.
"Everybody is very pleased and relieved," lawyer Jim Coleman said from Durham, N.C. "I think we convinced the panel Mary was innocent."
Coleman declared Slaney "unsuspended." The IAAF, headquartered in Monaco, was not immediately available to say if that was indeed the case.
He said Tuesday's ruling confirms that Slaney was a wronged party all along.
"To win means she must have been innocent," he said. "It's a very difficult process. I think there'll be changes that come out of this because the investigation USATF did was abysmal."
He did not know whether further legal action would be taken.
"This just happened today," he said. "Nobody has thought about that."
Mary Slaney had said in June that the messy situation had left her "numb."
"I feel like this whole thing is going to taint everything I've ever done athletically," she said then. "If someone were to ask me how I feel about USA Track & Field, I would say I hope it burns in hell."
Slaney allegedly tested positive for high levels of testosterone at the U.S. Olympic trials in June 1996. She was suspended by the IAAF, and was not allowed to compete this summer in the U.S. outdoor championships in Indianapolis or the world meet in Greece, where she had planned to run the 1,500 meters.
The tests look for elevated levels of testosterone by measuring it against epitestosterone, another naturally occurring substance. The so-called T/E ratio normally is 1-to-1. If an athlete's urine sample shows a ratio of 6-1 or higher, that triggers further tests and reviews that can lead to banishment from the sport.
Critics argue that the current tests don't take into account changes in body chemistry that can occur because of menstruation, or taking legal substances such as birth-control pills or just a couple glasses of wine or beer.
"We knew that a year and three months ago," Slaney's husband, Richard Slaney, said from Eugene, Ore. "Obviously, it's been very difficult. We're very tired. We want to digest this for a few days. It's been a long struggle.
"We appreciate the support we've received locally, and we appreciate the work the panel did. We're glad this part of it is over."
Just before the U.S. outdoor championships in June, Slaney and hurdler Sandra Farmer-Patrick, along with hurdler Stephon Flenoy, were suspended by the IAAF.
The three cases never were announced by USATF because the athletes had not exhausted their appeals.
Just before the championships, USATF said Slaney was eligible to compete because she had not been suspended. Then, based on the published reports, Slaney was suspended by the IAAF. Following the IAAF's lead, USATF said she was suspended and ineligible for the championships.
Later, USATF said she had actually been suspended earlier in the year, while Flenoy successfully pleaded his suspension to an arbitrator and was allowed to compete in the championships.
"The real tragedy is she was denied an opportunity to run in the world championships because USATF and IAAF delayed it so long," Coleman said.