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THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 13 : Unfounded Rumors : Brazil's Cruz Implies Drug Use by U.S. Women, Then Tries to Take It Back

September 29, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL — Florence Griffith Joyner was relaxing in her hotel room Wednesday night, watching the Cable News Network on the Armed Forces Korean Network when she heard her name mentioned.

She thought that it must be a report about the American record she had set in the quarterfinals of the 200 meters earlier in the day.

It turned out to be an allegation about the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs by her and her husband's sister, Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

When her husband, Al Joyner, returned to the room minutes later, he found her in tears.

"What will my parents think?" she asked, assuming that they would hear of the report in Los Angeles.

A few miles away, in the Olympic Village, Joaquim Cruz, the 800-meter silver medalist from Brazil, also was watching the news on the English-language network that serves the 42,000 U.S. military personnel in South Korea.

He said later that he also was shaken because, according to the commentator, the allegations against Griffith Joyner and Joyner-Kersee had been made by Cruz in an interview with a television reporter from Rio de Janeiro.

Cruz, who lives in Eugene, Ore., immediately went to the U.S. headquarters in the Olympic Village and claimed that he had been misquoted.

U.S. officials directed him to Griffith Joyner's hotel, where he met late Wednesday night with her husband, Al, and her manager, Gordon Baskin. Griffith Joyner was in another room, resting for Thursday's 200-meter semifinals and final.

"It was a lie," a distressed Cruz said later in an interview, struggling to hold back tears. "I never said anything like that. I think somebody wanted to have a big story using me."

Cruz said that he had spoken to a Brazilian television reporter Tuesday but that the only people he had mentioned in the interview were Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who had forfeited his 100-meter gold medal earlier that day for violating drug rules, and Kenya's Paul Ereng, who had beaten Cruz in the 800 meters.

"I didn't want to talk about it," Cruz said. "I told him that he came to the wrong person to talk about Ben Johnson because I don't know anything about drugs. He wanted to know if I thought Ereng was on drugs. I told him that Ereng won the gold, and he deserved it.

"I said that everybody should be tested, and if they test positive, they should be punished. That's all I said."

Joyner and Baskin said that they were convinced that Cruz was telling the truth.

But Thursday morning, after seeing a tape of the television interview, they realized that Cruz's act of contrition had been just that, an act.

"His tears had us fooled," Baskin said. "He was lying through his teeth."

According to a United Press International report from Rio de Janeiro, the television reporter quoted Cruz as saying: "Florence, in 1984, you could see an extremely feminine person. But today, she looks more like a man than a woman. And (Jackie) Joyner herself, she looks like a gorilla. So these people, they must be doing something that isn't normal to gain all these muscles."

Sources within the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee said that no traces of banned substances were discovered in the urine samples provided during these Games by either Griffith Joyner, who won the 100 meters, or Joyner-Kersee, who won the heptathlon. They will be tested again Thursday if they win medals in their events. Joyner-Kersee will compete in the final of the long jump.

It is the IOC's policy not to reveal results of negative drug tests, but Baskin said he was told of Griffith Joyner's negative test because she had been accused specifically.

Al Joyner said: "When the thing happened with Ben Johnson, you could see the vultures coming out.

"We hear certain rumors, and we overlook them. But when they're flashed all over TV in L.A., she starts worrying about what her parents are thinking. She started crying, and I tried to reinforce her.

"She said, 'What did I do to deserve this? What did I do to make everyone dislike me?'

"I told her, 'The truth will prevail. This is your time in history. Don't let anything stop you.' I told her that I know how hard she's worked for this. I've been with her every day and every night."

Griffith Joyner is scheduled to run the 400-meter relay Friday and, her husband said, also has been told by U.S. coaches that she may be called on in the 1,600-meter relay. But he said that she may not compete in the longer relay because she believes that it would add to her superwoman image and invite further scrutiny from the media.

"She knows they're talking about her," he said.

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