ORLANDO, Fla. -- Christopher Bowman calls himself "Hans Brinker from Hell," the figure skater with a triple and a snarl.
In the past 16 months, he has changed coaches three times, moved from Los Angeles to Toronto and back, dyed his brown hair blond, and been mugged.
He is skating's one-man gossip column. And he also may emerge this weekend from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships as America's top men's medal hope for next month's Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France.
But he continues to be enveloped by controversy.
Yesterday, the U.S. Figure Skating Association issued a statement confirming Bowman's eligibility to compete.
"The USFSA is concerned about the allegations which have been made regarding Mr. Bowman and has discussed these matters with him," federation president Franklin Nelson said yesterday in a prepared statement.
Specifically, Nelson said, he questioned Bowman about possible drug use.
"I told him, there are rumors, what does he have to say about it?" Nelson said. "We did not send out private investigators."
Nelson added that Bowman has passed every drug test since 1983.
Bowman, who appeared at a news conference dressed in a black double-breasted suit and wore diamond studs in each ear, did not address the issue of drugs. In fact, when controversial questions were asked, he was cut off by his new coach, John Nicks, who said: "I'd really like to move on to the triple axel."
But Bowman's lifestyle rankles the skating community. In October, he was mugged in Toronto near the home of his former coach, Toller Cranston.
Five weeks ago, he began to train with Nicks in Costa Mesa, Calif. Nicks said that Bowman, like all of his skaters, is subject to random testing for street drugs, including cocaine and marijuana.
"I'm basically the same skater I was two or four years ago," saiBowman, the 1989 U.S. champion and two-time world champion medalist. "There are things I don't do as well, but there are other things I do better."
* Scratch two-time defending champion Todd Eldredge from thmen's event.
As expected, Eldredge withdrew from the competition becausof a strained lower back. His only hope of getting one of three places on the Olympic team is a waiver from the USFSA's competition committee.
"I would hope they would take into account my previous years ocompetition and the fact I got third place at last year's World Championship, and that because of that, we can have three Americans at the Olympics," Eldredge said.
Eldredge added that he was told by his physician, Dr. ArthuPappas, that with rest, he could be ready to compete at the Olympics.
"I can't feel down," Eldredge said. "I just have to feel that I'll gewell and skate."