Five track and field athletes, including Americans Mike Gravelle and Gea Johnson, have been suspended after failing recent drug tests, the sport's world governing body said Thursday.
Gravelle, the top-ranked U.S. discus thrower; Johnson, a former NCAA heptathlon champion, and Jamaican sprinter Aston Morgan, the world leader in the 55-meter dash this season, were among the athletes facing four-year bans."They have been suspended pending a hearing with their national federations," International Amateur Athletic Federation spokesman Christopher Winner said in confirming the positive tests.
Winner said Gravelle, 29, of San Francisco, and Johnson, 27, of Monticello, Utah, both flunked out-of-competition tests in the United States last year.
Gravelle tested positive for testosterone, while Johnson tested positive for steroids, Winner said.
Gravelle, who attended San Jose State, won the U.S. discus championship last year and was third in 1991 and 1993.
He was shocked at the test results.
"I'm devastated," he said by telephone. "This is a sport I've given my life to. If this is how my track and field life is going to end, I'm heartbroken, because I'm innocent.
"I've never used steroids in my life. I've never had a problem with in-competition testing. The only thing positive about me is my attitude."
Gravelle said the test was administered last November, one day after he returned from a two-week honeymoon in Mexico.
"I hadn't worked out in months," he said. "I wasn't preparing for a competition. I won't be competing until about May or June.
"It doesn't make sense. It's absolutely ludicrous. It's a shame it happened to me.
"I will try to fight this to the fullest extent. But I don't have any money. To try and defend myself will cost about $200,000. If that doesn't work, I will leave track and field with a bitter taste, knowing I have played by the rules."
Johnson was the NCAA heptathlon champion at Arizona State in 1990. She has been slowed by a knee injury suffered at the U.S. Olympic trials in 1992.
Johnson, also reached by phone, was as upset as Gravelle.
"We were all in shock," she said, referring to her family's response to the announcement.
"The results are in total disagreement with what really happened. They're not true.
"It is so sad. . . . It really hurts. It's not only damaging to me personally but to my career professionally."
Johnson, who had modeled in the past, will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, injured recently when she slipped on sand during an obstacle-course event while participating in a fitness competition.
Also facing four-year bans after failing out-of-competition tests are Lithuanian 800-meter runner Dalia Matuseviciene, a semifinalist in the 1988 Olympics, and Freddy Fernando Caiza of Ecuador.