Reynolds familiar with Floyd Landis' plight

Updated: May 11, 2007, 1:33 PM ET
By Bonnie DeSimone | Special to ESPN.com

Few people have more of a personal perspective on Floyd Landis' high-profile, expensive, draining doping case than retired track star Butch Reynolds.

Reynolds set a world record in the 400 meters in 1988 that would stand for 11 years. He won a silver medal in that event and a relay gold at the Seoul Olympics. But his career and personal life collapsed after a positive steroid test in 1990. He was suspended from competition and lost everything -- "my marriage, my house, my mother's house, my cars, my endorsements," said Reynolds, 42, now in his third year as a speed coordinator for the football team at his alma mater, Ohio State University.

Butch Reynold
Andy Lyons /GettyImagesButch Reynolds fought doping accusations and eventually won the right return for the 1996 Olympics.

"It was either fight or die, and you're going to die regardless of whether you fight or not," he said this week. "I did my best."

Reynolds eventually was vindicated by a federal judge who agreed with his contention that his test was botched by a now-defunct French laboratory. Evidence strongly suggested Reynolds' sample had been inadvertently switched with that of another athlete.

But in those days, sanctioning was much more of a free-for-all, with individual sports bodies calling the shots. International track officials tried to ban Reynolds, and he fought them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court -- twice.

He won an appeal and earned the right to run in the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to collect $27.3 million awarded to him in compensatory and punitive damages by the lower court and never saw a penny of it.

Although Reynolds eventually returned to competition at the highest level in the 1996 Olympics, he'd lost a crucial step on the track and a huge chunk of his prime years. He battled depression, got divorced, declared bankruptcy. He still has occasional panic attacks. He still thinks about a rivalry with quintuple Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson that never fully played out.

"I could have been all over him if they'd let me alone," Reynolds said.

Reynolds said it took him more than 10 years to turn an emotional corner.

"It was when I met my second wife," Reynolds said. "She said, 'Man, you've got to let it go.'"

He took Stephanie's straightforward counsel to heart and rededicated himself to his foundation for underprivileged Akron kids.

"I give them my passion," Reynolds said. "I try to get them to put all their anger and frustration into getting over their hurdles. I tell them that life is not always fair, but God may give you something better if you get over that hurdle."

Reynolds said he thinks sponsors reserve judgment and don't cut accused athletes loose as quickly these days. He hopes his case serves as a perpetual reminder that things sometimes do go awry in the testing process.

As for Landis, Reynolds said, "If you know you're telling the truth, go through the process you have to go through. Maybe you had to go through this to get kids on bikes to help with the obesity problem. I would tell him to have faith, to stay strong and to believe in a higher power.

"That's the only thing that got me through it."

Bonnie DeSimone is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.