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Supreme Court Will Not Review Ruling on Olympic Gold Medalist's Botched Drug Test


January 1995

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case of former track and field star Harry "Butch" Reynolds against the athletic group that prevented him from competing in the 1992 Olympics because it says he failed a drug test ("Supreme Court Rules Against Former Olympic Track Star," National Report on Substance Abuse, Dec. 8, 1994, p. 3; for a summary of the case, see Reynolds v. IAAF, 23 F.3d 1110, (6th Cir. 1994), cert.denied 63USLW 3348).

The International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) suspended Reynolds in August 1990 for two years when they said he tested positive for the anabolic steroid Nandrolone after a track meet in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The suspension meant that Reynolds would not be able to participate in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Reynolds maintained that he never took drugs.

Reynolds sued in the Southern District Court of Ohio, but that court ruled that he had not followed through on the administrative remedies provided by sporting organizations.

In June 1991, Reynolds' case was evaluated by an independent arbitration panel that found "strong evidence" that the urine samples in question were not Reynolds'. The IAAF argued that the panel was not held according to IAAF rules and refused to lift the suspension.

That September, Reynolds again appealed the decision, this time to U.S.A. Track and Field (TAC, formerly The Athletic Congress of the United States), the governing body of U.S. track and field competition and a member of the IAAF. The TAC Doping Control Review Board exonerated Reynolds, finding that

after hearing the matters before it, the testimony of witnesses and expert witnesses of both sides, documents and exhibits, [we] find that Mr. Harry "Butch" Reynolds has cast substantial doubt on the validity of the drug test attributed to him (23 F.3d at 1113).

The IAAF refused to credit this finding also and brought action against TAC as a member that had "misdirected itself."

Reynolds continued to sue the IAAF in an Ohio Federal Court for defamation, breach of contract, and loss of wages he would have earned had he participated in the Olympic Games. The IAAF refused to appear in these cases, stating that the courts in Ohio did not have jurisdiction over its actions (IAAF is located in London, England). The District court ruled in Reynolds' favor, awarding him $27,356,008 in damages.

The IAAF appealed this decision after Reynolds was able to obtain garnishment orders against corporations affiliated with IAAF. IAAF argued again that the Ohio court had no jurisdiction in the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed with IAAF and reversed the decision. On Oct. 31, 1994, the Supreme Court rejected Reynolds' attempt to appeal his lost suit against the IAAF.

Reynolds won a gold and silver medal at the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul and is a recordholder in the 400 meter race.