This is the first of many editorial pieces that will appear here on a regular basis. Please return often.
Women runners in the News - 1997
by Don Allison
The Chinese Women
Theyre baaack. In 1993, the women from China shocked the world, running times at distances from 1,500 to 10,000 meters
that no other females had ever approached. Concerns were raised immediately about the legitimacy of the marks. These
concerns were only exacerbated by Chinese national coach, Ma Junren. The eccentric coach attributed the success of his
runners to inordinately hard training at altitude to wild nutritional practices.
The furor died down when the times of Chinese women returned to normal, but in late October at the national track
championships, the record-setting faucet began to flow once again. Liang Bo recorded an incredible 14:28 for 5,000 meters,
beyond the range of even the most hardened international competitors.. Is it real? We may find out in Sydney or maybe never at all.
She is Sri Lankas first ever world class track athlete, but it is her antics off the track that have made news outside of her small country. After coming out of nowhere to win the 200-meter silver medal at the World championships in Athens, it came to light
that Jayasinghe was an Army deserter. After that controversy died down, charges of sexual harassment from a variety of
coaches arose. Her plight was even discussed in the Sri Lankan parliament. Seems Jayasinghes life was dominated by
everything but running after her performance in Athens. A flash in the pan or a budding tack star? Time will tell.
This former North Carolina University basketball star made a seamless transition back to running, as she moved right to the
top of womens sprinting in 1997, culminating with three gold medals at the World Championships, including one in the 100
meters. She also clocked the worlds fastest 100 meters, 10.79 Lean and lithe like Carl Lewis, Jones looks to be the future of
womens sprinting, a new American star in track in field heading into the new century. Thats a tall order, but one that Marion
Jones appears capable of fulfilling.
Where to start? Mary Slaney was perhaps the most high-profile track athlete during 1997. As the year began, Slaney staged a
comeback for the ages, winning mile and 1,500 meter indoor races all over, including the Millrose Games and the USA indoor
championships, then finishing second by an eyelash in the indoor worlds. Track fans in the USA reveled in her success.
Everything changed in May, when USATF suspended Slaney, citing a failed test at the 1996 Olympic Trials, in which her
Epitestosterone to Testosterone level was over the allowed limit of six to one. Scientific analysis and public accusations began
to fly at once. Slaney was steadfast in her declarations of innocence, but USATF was not to be swayed, initiating the
suspension and preventing her from competing at the national championships and thus the World Championships later in the
summer. It all came to a quiet conclusion in October, when Slaney was exonerated by USATF and IAAF. The entire case
highlighted the tenuous and vague nature of drug testing at high-level athletic competition. That it likely cost Slaney her
reputation was an unfortunate and price to pay in order to bring this into the public eye.