Originally created 09/24/98

IOC: FloJo passed tough drug tests



BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Florence Griffith Joyner was singled out for rigorous drug testing during the 1988 Seoul Olympics because of steroid rumors, and she turned up clean.

"So there should not be the slightest suspicion," Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC's medical commission, said Wednesday. "Let her rest in peace. The issue is closed."

De Merode said Germany's Manfred Donike, considered the foremost expert on drugs and sports at the time of the Seoul Games, failed to discover even minute traces of banned substances.

De Merode said Griffith Joyner passed all the tests and it was unfair to suggest she was a drug cheat.

Griffith Joyner, who won three gold medals in Seoul and still holds world records at 100 and 200 meters, died Monday in California at 38. The coroner is attempting to determine the cause of death.

Bob Kersee, her former coach, said Griffith Joyner showed no sign of illness before she died. He said she did have exercise-induced asthma and migraines.

Her wake is scheduled for Friday in Los Angeles, with the funeral Saturday in Lake Forest, Calif.

Griffith Joyner's unusually muscled physique and startling times in Seoul raised speculation that she used performance-enhancing drugs at the time -- allegations that she denied.

Now, with her sudden death 10 years after she dazzled the track world, the questions about the drugs are being raised again.

De Merode said he assigned his top drug control expert to test Griffith Joyner after she won the 100 and 200 meters in Seoul.

"Since there were rumors at the time, we performed all possible and imaginable analyses on her," de Merode told the Brussels newspaper Le Soir. "We never found anything."

However, Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, a French sports doctor and drug expert, said Griffith Joyner's muscle development before the Seoul Olympics was "humanly impossible."

"The controls don't constitute proof of not taking drugs," he told the French sports daily L'Equipe. "It is probable that she used large doses but others, notably in Eastern Europe, did the same. Other famous athletes are going to die and we will know it."

In Germany, Werner Franke, a Heidelberg professor of molecular biology and a specialist on sports and drugs, is convinced Griffith Joyner took banned substances.

"This death was foreseeable," he said.

But Helmut Digel, president of the German Sports Federation, urged caution.

"The death of Florence Griffith Joyner should not be a cause of speculation that brings on a war against drugs," he said. "The principle of fair play forbids saying someone is guilty without evidence."

Britain's Sebastian Coe, two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500 meters and former world record-holder in the 800, also said it was unfair to conclude that Griffith Joyner used drugs.

"I set a world record that lasted 18 years," Coe said. "People do make progress at rates that raise eyebrows. It would be wrong to suggest because an athlete makes a startling breakthrough in a performance, they're cheating."

"It's always a balance of judgment and I'm wary of knee jerk reactions," Coe said. "The final arbiter has to be a positive test."