LONDON (AP) — Olympic great Michael Johnson says he was “shocked” by former teammate Antonio Pettigrew’s doping admission and will return the gold medal the two of them helped the United States win in the 1,600-meter relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“As difficult as it is, I will be returning it to the International Olympic Committee because I don’t want it,” Johnson wrote in a column in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph. “I feel cheated, betrayed and let down.”
Pettigrew testified on May 22 at the trial of disgraced coach Trevor Graham in San Francisco that he had used banned performance enhancing drugs throughout his long career. The testimony had been described earlier in the trial.
“The news that Antonio was scheduled to testify to having taken performance-enhancing drugs shocked me like no other drug-related story,” Johnson wrote. “…He was someone I considered a friend.”
The gold medal is one of five Johnson won in his standout career. He still holds the world record in the 200 and 400 meters. Pettigrew’s testimony means that three of the four runners in the finals on the U.S. relay team have been tainted by drugs
Twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison both were suspended for doping violations. Alvin Harrison accepted a four-year ban in 2004 after admitting he used performance enhancers. Calvin Harrison tested positive for a banned stimulant in 2003 and was suspended for two years. Like Pettigrew, they were coached by Graham.
Earlier, Johnson had refused to give up the medal after it was revealed that another U.S. relay teammate, Jerome Young, had tested positive in 1999. Young, it was later ruled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, had been wrongly cleared by U.S. officials to compete. He ran only in a preliminary round, and the athletes won an appeal to keep the medals.
During the Young controversy, Johnson wrote, he had spoken with Pettigrew and both agreed they should fight giving up the medal.
“I look back on those conversations now and am amazed that he could talk to me about this knowing all along that he was guilty and that the medal was tainted anyway,” Johnson wrote.
Johnson said he is “deeply disappointed in Antonio and in the sport of athletics. I now realize that there have been a significant number of athletes and coaches in this sport who have cheated and taken the short cut, and many of them knew who else was cheating.”
Johnson talked about his past rigorous defense of the sport against a media that he felt overemphasized drug use and virtually ignored the true accomplishments of the athletes.
“But now,” he wrote, “I feel that I have been naive.”
Johnson said he would send the medal to the International Olympic Committee.
“I know the medal was not fairly won and that it is dirty,” Johnson wrote, “and so I have moved it from the location where I have always kept my medals because it doesn’t belong there. And it doesn’t belong to me.”
Johnson vowed, though, that he would “not give up on this sport and the current group of young athletes like Jeremy Wariner, Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, Christine Ohuruogu, Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell.
“I will continue to support them but the difference is that now I can certainly understand why some fans may be hesitant to do so themselves.”
Johnson did not return a telephone message left at his office.