Capel has history of marijuana use

Updated: August 29, 2004, 9:54 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- John Capel, the 200-meter world champion last year, was replaced on the U.S. 400-meter relay team because he tested positive for marijuana, an official familiar with the decision said Saturday.

Capel was set to run in the semifinals on Friday night, but U.S. coach George Williams pulled him from the lineup when he learned of the test result, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Capel's positive test was first reported in Saturday's Tampa Tribune.

Shawn Crawford, this year's Olympic 200-meter champion, replaced Capel, and the U.S. team easily won its heat in 38.02 seconds. Crawford said he was told of the switch about an hour before the race.

Capel tested positive on Aug. 9 in Munich at the three-way team competition between the United States, France and Germany. Any other positive test of a so-called "minor'' drug will result in a two-year ban from competition.

Only a warning is given for a positive marijuana test, and Capel was still eligible to run in the relay. But Williams decided to replace him anyway.

The 25-year-old Capel had been scheduled to run only in the semifinal, so being pulled from that race would cost him a gold medal if the heavily favored Americans win Saturday night. He did not qualify for any individual races at the U.S. trials in June, but was added to the team in the relay pool.

Capel's friend and training partner in Gainesville, Fla., Bernard Williams, tested positive for marijuana at a meet in Seville, Spain, on June 5 and is on probation. Williams won the silver medal in a U.S. sweep of the Olympic 200 Thursday night.

Afterward, Williams said he had learned from his mistake and was no longer using the drug.

Marijuana has caused serious career problems for Capel in the past. A wide receiver at Florida, he was selected by the NFL's Chicago Bears in 2001, but tested positive for the drug at the draft combine. On May 5, 2001, he was charged with possession of marijuana, and the Bears released him.

In 2002, he failed to make the roster for the Kansas City Chiefs and returned to running on the advice of coach Dick Vermeil.

Four years ago in Sydney, Capel was a favorite in the 200 but faltered out of the start in the race and finished last. Later he said he went out partying with friends the night before the finals.

"I wasted a couple of years of my career, of my life,'' Capel told the Houston Chronicle just before the Athens Games began. "But I'm thankful that I was able to get back before it was too late.''


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press