Alvin Harrison accepts ban


Mercury News

In another victory for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's effort to clean up track and field, Olympic runner Alvin Harrison accepted a four-year suspension Tuesday for drug violations stemming from the Balco Laboratories case.

Harrison, 30, became the second athlete connected to Balco to admit to using performance-enhancing drugs after being presented with evidence from the criminal case. Sprinter Kelli White of Union City accepted a two-year ban in May.

``It was time for him to speak out,'' said Harrison's lawyer, Robert Harris of Durham, N.C.

Harrison, who won gold medals as part of the 1996 and 2000 U.S. 1,600-meter relay teams, could not be reached. He and his twin, Calvin Harrison, denied in July that they took illegal drugs. The brothers, who grew up in Salinas, railed against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for trying to ban Alvin without a positive test.

Calvin Harrison is serving a two-year suspension after testing positive for modafinil, his second flunked drug screen.

Alvin Harrison admitted to using THG, testosterone cream, insulin, erythropoietin (EPO), the human growth hormone and modafinil -- the catalog of drugs connected to Balco. Harrison's admission came because he wants to move on, his lawyer said.

Harris said the 400-meter runner took the drugs only after the 2000 Olympics and that his accomplishments should not be diminished because of it. Alvin and Calvin Harrison failed to qualify for the Athens Games.

``He wants to show how this is being done and even forced on athletes,'' Harris said, adding that the runner might write a book as well as try to play professional football.

The anti-doping agency used evidence based in large part on material subpoenaed by the Senate Commerce Committee and then handed to drug testers.

Travis Tygart, USADA's legal director, said Harrison's admission validated the anti-doping agency's pursuit of athletes based on Balco evidence, which included calendars of drug schedules. Three cases based on similar evidence -- involving Tim Montgomery, Chryste Gaines and Michelle Collins -- are scheduled before the Court of Arbitration for Sport next month in San Francisco.

``Since THG was first discovered, people accused USADA of rushing to judgment and giving in to certain pressure,'' Tygart said. ``We stayed the course.''

Alvin Harrison forfeited all his winnings since Feb. 1, 2001. He and his Sydney relay teammates face the possibility of losing their gold medals because runner Jerome Young tested positive for steroids a year before the 2000 Games.

White, who lost two world titles in accepting sanctions, did not find solace in Alvin Harrison's admission, her lawyer said Tuesday.

``Kelli is saddened by it,'' Jerrold Colton said. ``Nobody would say Alvin is the only one to sit here and have done this stuff.''

Tygart said Harrison's admission vindicates White. ``She knows what the truth is, accepted it, and not only accepted it but had the courage to help clean up the sport to give other athletes a chance,'' Tygart said. ``That to me is one of the more inspirational performances of the year.''

Contact Elliott Almond at of (408) 920-5965.