BARCELONA, Spain -- U.S. sprinter Gwen Torrence apparently wasn't referring to her gold-medalist teammate, Gail Devers, when she claimed that three of the women in yesterday's Olympic 100-meter final had been using performance-enhancing drugs.
But Devers' coach, Bob Kersee, became incensed upon learning of the charge from a reporter's question at a post-race news conference. He broke off his own interview in an adjoining room and burst into the conference area unannounced.
Without even pausing to grab a microphone, Kersee told reporters: "Gail Devers has been drug-tested almost as much as my wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. . . . I'm sorry, but anyone who believes Gail Devers has been taking performance-enhancing drugs can kiss my a Kersee's outburst came about an hour after Devers won the 100 in a personal-best time of 10.82 seconds. Jamaica's Juliet Cuthbert finished second, the Unified Team's Irina Privalova third and Torrence fourth.
"I think Gwen is a sore loser," Cuthbert said. "I can speak for myself. I'm totally, 100 percent clean. She had a bad day. She's very upset. I can understand her saying that maybe the people who beat her are not clean. I can't speak for anybody else, but I know I am."
Torrence refused to identify which three of the eight runners she believed were using performance-enhancing drugs. But she said Devers: "I'm glad she came through for America.
I'm happy for Gail."
That seemed to clarify the issue, but Kersee remained angry even after reporters indicated that Torrence had not been accusing Devers. His reaction demonstrated the explosiveness of an issue that continues to haunt track and field.
"I've been through this the last four years," he said, apparently referring to rumors of steroid use by his wife, Jackie, and her sister-in-law, Florence Griffith Joyner, who combined for five gold medals in 1988.
"I'm not just talking directly to Gwen. I'm talking to anyone and anybody. Gail Devers walked through a stadium in Eugene, Ore., and a person pointed to her one time and said, 'There's a girl who can't run fast anymore because she's not taking performance-enhancing drugs.'
"We've got random drug-testing now. I'm not going to have anybody insinuate anything about Gail Devers or any of my athletes. When my athletes win gold medals here, they know how they won them, and they won them clean."
The irony is that Devers had refused to take medication that might have prevented side effects from radiation treatment she received for Graves' disease in 1990, believing that it would have caused her to test positive for drug use.
Devers said radiation led to hair and memory loss, three to four menstrual cycles a month and a weight increase from 95 to 139 pounds.
"I don't know if it's a Cinderella story, but it feels good," Devers said of her gold-medal performance.