by Phillip Whitten
On July 1, FINA, swimming’s international governing body confirmed that America’s premier sprint star, Gary Hall, Jr., 23, tested positive for marijuana in an out-of-competition drug test on May 15. Hall has been provisionally suspended from competition until a hearing can be held following testing of the B sample. Tentatively, the B sample will be tested at the IOC laboratory in Montreal on July 15 or 16.
The positive test threatens to end Hall’s spectacular career. Since it usually takes several months for FINA to grant hearings, the announcement effectively eliminates Hall from the Goodwill Games in New York, July 28-August 2, where he was expected to battle head-to-head with his Russian rival and nemesis, Alexander Popov, in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle events. It also almost certainly takes him out of the USS Summer Nationals in Clovis, Calif., where national teams will be selcted for the 1999 Pan Pacific Games, Pan Ams, Short Course World Championships, and several other international events.
Only one other athlete has been sanctioned for marijuana since FINA officially began testing for the substance–a non-performance-enhancing drug–late in 1997. Scott Miller, a 1996 Olympic silver medalist, was given a two-month suspension in January of this year, taking him out of the World Championships in Perth.
However, Swimming World has learned that FINA intends to impose a much tougher sentence on Hall–as long as two years! In an exclusive interview, Cornel Marculescu, FINA’s executive director, told Swimming World that FINA regards Hall’s positive test as a “second offense.” This is because, at the Atlanta Olympics, Hall was one of three swimmers and more than a dozen American athletes, who tested positive for marijuana. It is doubtful FINA can make this stick: At the time, marijuana was not on the IOC’s list of banned substaces and no official action was taken against any of the individuals. Furthermore, the B samples were not tested and no athlete was given a hearing–all required under IOC and FINA rules.
In a prepared statement, Hall said: “I am confident that once I am afforded the opportunity to present my position, I will be able to prove I did not violate any FINA rule and the provisional suspension will be removed.” He noted that the test was taken while he was competing in a non-FINA sanctioned event in Phoenix, May 15.
Swimming World has also learned that another world-class swimmer has tested positive for marijuana recently and that that individual’s case currently is under consideration by FINA.