Originally created 08/29/98

Track stars urge cancellation of Moscow final



BRUSSELS, Belgium -- International track stars on Friday demanded next week's final of the Grand Prix season be moved from Moscow because of the economic turmoil gripping Russia.

"We feel that its an insult to go to Moscow and leave with million dollar prizes," American sprinter Jon Drummond said.

"I feel our safety is also a factor," he added after winning the 200 meters in the Van Damme Memorial event on Friday.

Drummond said he would present a petition signed by about 50 of the world's top athletes calling for the Grand Prix final scheduled for Sept. 5 to be moved to "a more serene venue."

Track stars signing the petition included Morocco's 1,500-meter star Hicham El Guerrouj; Kenya's 3,000-meter world record holder Daniel Komen and world 200- and 400-meter champion Michael Johnson, Drummond said.

"It's not what the sport is about. With the situation the way it is at present it could be dangerous," Johnson said. "I don't think there's anyone in Russia right now who wants to watch an athletics meet."

Drummond said the athletes don't plan a mass boycott of the Moscow event, but would decide individually whether to compete if it goes ahead. He said he wouldn't be going, as did world 100-meter champion Maurice Greene.

"I'm not going to the final in Moscow because I'm afraid," Greene said.

Sprinter Marion Jones and Ireland's 1,500-meter runner, Sonia O'Sullivan, said they intended to compete in Moscow if the event went ahead.

Jones is one of four athletes still in contention for the $1 million Golden League Jackpot.

"I've no control over what's going on in Moscow. I'm an athlete, I'm going to compete," Jones said. "A lot of athletes have expressed concern. I'm not concerned."

Drummond said athletes' worries came to a head during a meeting in Brussels. He said many American track stars were also worried about competing in next month's World Cup at Johannesburg, South Africa following the recent bombing of an American restaurant in Cape Town.

"The majority of people feel the same about Johannesburg as they do about Russia," Drummond said.