Decker Is Still Not Apologizing : But She Suggests Wysocki Should Do So to Her

Times Staff Writer

Mary Decker met the media Friday afternoon to defend herself against charges by Ruth Wysocki and Steve Scott that she is a “baby” and owes an apology to Zola Budd.

There is a soap opera aura about this whole thing and, if it went on television, it would get high ratings. Call it “Mary Decker, Mary Decker.”

The background:

Decker, America’s premier women’s distance runner, collided with Budd, the South African-born runner competing for Britain, in the 3,000 meters of the Olympic Games here last summer.


Decker was knocked into the infield and couldn’t continue the race. Budd went on to finish seventh.

Later, Decker blamed Budd for causing the collision. Wysocki, who had upset Decker in the 1,500 meters in the U.S. Olympic trials, said Tuesday that Mary was revealed to the public as the person she really is. Wysocki also said that Decker should apologize to Budd for berating her.

Enter Steve Scott, America’s best miler for the past six years. He said in a Times interview that Decker is a “baby and she’s spoiled.” Wysocki added that Decker is a crybaby as well as a sourpuss.

But Decker, who will race for the first time since her fall in the Olympics--against Wysocki, no less--in a 2,000-meter race at the Sunkist Invitational next Friday night at the Sports Arena, doesn’t feel it is necessary to apologize to Budd.


She also tried to avoid escalating a feud with Wysocki at a press conference near the airport that lured representatives from national television networks. It had all the trappings of a Super Bowl press conference.

Decker said that Scott had called her coach, Dick Brown, to apologize and told him that his comments were taken out of context.

Scott confirmed in Phoenix Friday night that he did apologize and that his remarks were turned around to make it sound like he was viciously attacking Decker.

“I may have said that Decker acted like a baby (at the Olympics), but I didn’t say she was a baby. That’s a big difference,” Scott said. “It came out as if I’m Mary’s enemy and that’s not true.”


As for apologizing to Budd, an inexperienced 18-year-old athlete, Decker said:

“I don’t feel that I have any reason to apologize. I was wronged like anyone else in that situation. If anyone should do any apologizing, it should be Wysocki for talking about things she doesn’t have any information about.

“I think the gestures following the Olympics and at the Olympics (toward Budd) were gestures of friendship enough that anyone could accept or not accept.”

Decker was referring to overtures made by herself and her coach to get together for breakfast, lunch or dinner with Budd.


Those invitations were declined, Decker said, by John Bryant of the London Daily Mail, who was representing Budd at the time.

Bryant said that Brown talked about a possibility of Decker and Budd going on television together, but no one said anything like: “Let’s do lunch sometime.”

Anyway, Decker is apparently miffed at Wysocki, but she said that Wysocki’s remarks have motivated her for the 2,000-meter showdown.

“I can say truthfully that she (Wysocki) may have done me a favor,” Decker said. “She may have helped me to run faster.”


Wysocki, who is virtually inexperienced as a indoor runner, didn’t have much chance of beating Decker even before this flap.

“I think it’s unfortunate that she (Wysocki) is misinformed,” Decker said. “It’s something I don’t want to get into because I don’t want to put myself into the position she has put herself into. I have never belittled my competitors and I don’t want to start now.”

Decker was specifically referring to Wysocki’s claim that Decker pulled out of a 10-kilometer race in Phoenix March 2 when she heard that Budd was running in the same race.

“I had a contract with Continental Homes (sponsor of the race) for five years,” Decker said. “I honored two years of that contract even though I was injured and couldn’t compete there.


“The contract is an option contract which they didn’t pick up this year. Until then, I thought I was going to be running in the race. When I found out I wasn’t, Richard (Slaney, whom she recently married) and I had already planned a second wedding ceremony in England.

“The first I heard that Zola was running in Phoenix was a week ago. If I had known that, maybe I could have made other arrangements.”

Will Decker and Budd ever get together on the track (lunch is apparently out) again?

“I don’t want something set up specially,” Decker said. “I would prefer that it would just be a (track) meet.”


Many of the questions at the press conference concerned Decker’s supposed tarnished image with the public and Wysocki’s motivation for criticizing Decker.

“It (criticism) bothers me. I’m a human being and I do have emotions,” Decker said, “but it doesn’t bother me enough to lose sleep over it.

“I have no idea why she said what she said. I was as surprised as anyone else. Maybe it was because of the meet coming up . . . maybe it was something else.”

Decker said that Wysocki, who has been running against Decker since both were teen-agers, is only an acquaintance, adding: “I find it surprising that she has become so much of an authority on me.”


As to the charges that she was a crybaby at the Olympics, Decker said: “I was completely natural to myself. If I was any different, I’d be lying to myself and everybody else. People are entitled to form their own opinions, but I feel I’m entitled to my own feelings.”

She said she didn’t have any regrets for her behavior at the Olympics and said ambiguously that that other people in her situation would have handled things more unfavorably.

Decker said that her training has been going well, that she plans to run a mile at the Millrose Games Jan. 25 at New York and a 1,500 at the U.S. Olympic Invitational Feb. 9 at East Rutherford, N.J. She said she wants to establish personal-best marks in those races along with the 2,000 in the Sunkist meet.

Of her fall in the Olympics, she said that it was physically impossible for her to get up and continue to run. She said it was discovered later that she had a muscle tear in her hip and a strained groin muscle that kept her inactive for eight weeks.


Asked if she plans to run in the 1988 Olympics at Seoul, South Korea with the possibility of getting her first gold medal, she replied crisply: “You bet.”

Oh, one more thing.

She doesn’t want her name hyphenated now that she is married to Slaney, a British discus thrower. She would prefer to run under the name of Mary Slaney, but, if the media wants to call her Mary Decker, that’s fine, too.

So life goes on for Mary Decker, Mary Decker.