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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Track and field

Lewis Finds Unlikely Relay Ally in Johnson

August 01, 1996|RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — President Clinton has not yet weighed in with his opinion on one of the most intriguing questions of the day, even though he was asked, but Michael Johnson has. He said Wednesday that Carl Lewis should be allowed to run for the U.S. Olympic 400-meter relay team, giving him an opportunity for an unprecedented 10th gold medal.

"I've always believed you put the best four people out there," Johnson said after the second round of the 200 meters in Centennial Olympic Stadium.

"Carl has more experience than all four guys out there put together. If I was the coach, I'd put Carl on the relay."

California's Erv Hunt is the U.S. men's track and field coach. He reiterated that his team, if it reaches Saturday's final, will consist of Jon Drummond, Leroy Burrell, Michael Marsh and Dennis Mitchell.

For the first round Friday morning, Hunt named alternate Tim Montgomery to replace Marsh, who is competing in the 200 today. Marsh also will sit out the semifinals Friday afternoon. Hunt has not announced his lineup for that race.

Hunt said that he would name Lewis only "if there was a way to do it without disrespecting the other athletes and coaches. For me to put a person on the team that didn't come to practice and openly says, 'I don't want to do this, I don't want to do that,' when the other athletes are out there busting their behinds, I don't think that's fair."

Neither does Drummond, who said that Lewis should not be on the relay team because he finished "butt-naked last" in the 100 meters in last month's U.S. trials.

A Congressman from Lewis' hometown of Houston, Rep. Ron Wilson (D-Texas), asked the President to intervene.

"There's only one Carl Lewis," Wilson said. "If it was Nolan Ryan or Mary Lou Retton, there wouldn't even be a question about it. He's given 20 years of his life in pursuit of Olympic excellence for his country."

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