Taylor hopes Games will focus on athletes, not drugs
GEORGIOUPOLI, Greece -- Brenda Taylor is nobody's fool. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a degree in cognitive neuroscience and is headed for law school when her track career ends.
So when the 400-meter hurdler was offered a performance-enhancing drug at the 2003 U.S. championships, she says she just said no.
"They offered me modafinil before the USAs last year, and I think I'm the only person that didn't take it," Taylor said.
Modafinil is the banned stimulant that resulted in sprinter Kelli White's positive drug test at last year's world championships in Paris. White, who won the 100 and 200 at the worlds, later accepted a two-year ban from the sport and admitted using undetectable steroids and the endurance-enhancing drug EPO.
Taylor just smiled and wouldn't answer when asked who offered her the drug, and she didn't say who the others were who took it. But in an interview at the U.S. pre-Olympic training camp she emphasized that she supports the hard line being taken against performance-enhancing drugs in track and field.
"I'm happy when I hear that people are getting caught," she said. "I've been faced with a tough decision. That was the only one. That's the only time I've ever been faced with anything. That's not integrity. I don't know what you call success at the end of the day if you're looking for just victory.
"If you don't have integrity, I don't know what you have at the end of the day."
Taylor's former coach is Remi Korchemny, one of four people indicted on federal charges of distributing drugs through the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative. Taylor, now coached by Rahn Sheffield at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego, said she was shocked when she heard of his indictment.
"I know that he loves track and field. He lives for it. That's his life, helping people in track. So it's sad; it's really, really sad," she said.
Taylor said she feels "at peace" with the drug crackdown.
"I worked so hard every day," she said. "I'm disciplined in what I eat. I'm disciplined in how I sleep. I'm pushing my body to the limit on a daily basis, without taking shortcuts. And it's really hard when the people that are standing on the line next to you are taking an advantage."
At 25, Taylor is the old-timer of the trio of U.S. women entered in the 400 hurdles. Sheena Johnson, 21 and just out of UCLA, has the fastest time in the world this year (52.95 seconds), and hasn't lost a race this year. Lashinda Demus, a junior at South Carolina, also is 21.
Taylor has the No. 2 time in the world at 53.36, and Demus is No. 4 at 53.43. All three times came in the phenomenal finals at the U.S. trials, when each recorded personal bests.
"I'm excited because my event I think is one where you can break the world record clean," Taylor said. "I think our world record is attainable. There aren't many events left in track and field, especially in the shorter races I think, where that's possible."
Taylor, whose twin sister Lindsay graduated from Brown and is a pole vaulter, hopes the media will turn away from the steroid story to showcase the young, untainted talent on the U.S. team.
"People don't stop and look and say 'Wait a minute. We have this incredible pool of athletes right in front of us," she said. "We're ready to rise to the occasion. We're ready to take on the challenge. We're ready, in some cases, to take the sport to a different level.
"We have world record capabilities in the United States right now, and nobody cares."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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