Henry Marsh, the four-time Olympic distance runner, planned to announce this morning that his year-old suspension by The Athletics Congress for failure to appear for a drug test has been revoked by an arbitration panel.
Marsh, who retired after the 1988 Olympic steeplechase final, also said he will begin a comeback next month with hopes of winning a spot on his fifth U.S. Olympic team in 1992."I am now fully exhonerated," said Marsh Tuesday evening.
The arbitration ruling marked the end of a landmark case. Marsh's suspension by TAC was the first ever to go to legal arbitration. It also marked the first time that an appeal of a TAC suspension was endorsed by the United States Olympic Committee, which decided last year that it would finance the procedure.
Marsh, who said he hoped to "bury the hatchet" after his long legal battle with TAC, said he received the arbitration panel's ruling Tuesday. He planned to release the decision to the media this morning.
In a prepared statement, Marsh told the Deseret News, "On Jan. 18, the American Arbitration Association revoked the suspension (placed) upon me by TAC. I am pleased by that decision. Most importantly to me personally, I wish to repeat that I never used drugs and I have always been, and will continue to be, staunchly opposed to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
"Very few of our Olympic athletes cheat, but unfortunately in today's world drug testing is a necessity. My concerns have always been with creating a drug-testing system that protects athletes' rights while catching and penalizing the guilty. I worked strenuously in my defense, both for myself and on behalf of other athletes who might have found themselves in situations similar to mine. In any case, my underlying desire was to improve the system.
" . . . There is no doubt in my mind that TAC was well-intentioned in their pursuit of my case. In fact, TAC has already made several procedural changes in their drug-testing protocol to safeguard ahletes' rights."
TAC originally suspended Marsh for two years effective Jan. 1990. The arbitration panel ruled in Marsh's favor based on "ambiguous and unclear" notice, and because "the appeal proceeding conducted by (TAC) on (Marsh's) suspension was inadequate to provide (Marsh) a fair hearing."
Marsh contended from the beginning that TAC did not follow its own rules in notifying him of a drug test. TAC rules required that athletes be notified of a drug test both in writing and by phone, and that athletes be given "24 to 48 hours to comply" with the request. TAC left its written notice with Marsh's wife while he was out of town on business, and never notified him by phone.
With the suspension behind him, Marsh, who will turn 37 next month, will launch his comeback on March 3 in the Rogaine 5,000-meter road race in Los Angeles. He plans to compete on the track this summer.
"I've been training hard the last few months," he said. "I've got a long way to go. (The race) will be the first step in a difficult comeback attempt. I've been out longer than Ben Johnson. I want to lay a foundation this year to see where I am. The only reason to come back - my whole focus - is the Olympic Trials in June 1992 in New Orleans. This year I'll see if that is feasible."