Another day at the US Olympic trials; another doping positive. For the third time in as many days the track-and-field folk gathered at the Hornets Stadium in Sacramento were stung by the news that a contender for a place on the US team had fallen foul of the drug-testers.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Torri Edwards, the 100m world champion, had tested positive for the stimulant nikethamide at a meeting in Martinique in April. On Thursday, the Associated Press disclosed that the 110m hurdler Larry Wade had produced a positive out-of-competition test for the anabolic steroid norandrosterone. He withdrew from the trials on Friday, citing an injured left arm. At the same time, the Chicago Tribune reported on its website that the sprinter Mickey Grimes had tested positive for norandrosterone in Los Angeles on 25 May.
All three athletes are coached by John Smith and managed by Emmanuel Hudson, owners of Hudson Smith International and the two gurus behind Maurice Greene, who has revived his sprinting career and who will head to Athens to defend his Olympic 100m crown as US champion. Grimes failed to make it to the finals of the 100m in Sacramento, but he reached the quarter-finals of the 200m on Friday, winning his heat in 20.39sec. He declined to comment afterwards.
It is not the first time he has been caught in the drugs net. He lost the 100m gold medal at the Pan American Games last year after testing positive for the stimulant pseudoephedrine. He accepted his punishment - the forfeit of his medal and a public warning, but no ban - without appeal. "I understand that athletes need to take responsibility for everything we put in our bodies," Grimes said at the time. "I made a mistake and I sincerely regret letting down the US delegation and my country."
Grimes, 27, trains alongside Greene in Los Angeles. His latest violation drew a stonewall response from Hudson. "As the attorney of record for athletes represented by Hudson Smith International, I cannot discuss the events or non-events circulating around their heads," Hudson said.
Leaked news of the three positives has continued the Chinese water torture on US athletics, whose Olympic trials were already suffering from the fallout of the doping scandal surrounding the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative. The Balco case has prompted investigations into six US athletes, four of whom have been competing in Sacramento. Only one has made the team for Athens, Marion Jones qualifying for the long jump on Thursday.
Jones was back in action on Friday, in the quarter-finals of the 200m. She finished fifth in her race, clocking 22.93sec, but advanced to the semi-finals as one of the fastest losers. Edwards, who faces a hearing tomorrow, was the fastest qualifier, with 22.60sec.
The most impressive performance of the day came in the men's 200m heats, in which Shawn Crawford clocked the fastest time in the world this year, 19.88sec. The action on the track, however, was once again clouded by the news on the doping front, prompting Craig Masback, the chief executive of USA Track and Field, to complain about the leakage of information. "If you have faith in the people who are doing the testing and adjudication, how is it good for the sport when there are 14, 15 or 20 days of articles about every possible test?" Masback said. "That's just a drip, drip for suicide."