Only five weeks after Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was allowed to return to competition following track and field's most celebrated drug bust, two more of the sport's stars, 400-meter runner Butch Reynolds and shotputter Randy Barnes of the United States, face suspensions that could prevent them from participating in the 1992 Summer Olympics.
The International Amateur Athletic Federation, which governs track and field, disclosed in a statement Monday night that the two world record-holders tested positive for anabolic steroids at meets last August.
According to the statement, Reynolds, 26, and Barnes, 24, will receive automatic two-year suspensions, pending appeals. They have hearings scheduled before The Athletics Congress, the governing body for the sport in the United States.
TAC spokesman Pete Cava said the organization will release a statement today.
From his parents' home in South Charleston, W.Va., Barnes told the Associated Press: "I've been instructed not to comment. When it's time . . . I'll make a statement, but right now it's not time."
Both athletes were silver medalists at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and were considered among the favorites for gold medals at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
Reynolds, from Columbus, Ohio, ran the 400 meters in 43.29 seconds in 1988 at a meet in Zurich, Switzerland, to break a 19-year-old world record of 43.86 set by American Lee Evans at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Reynolds was favored to win the 400 meters at Seoul, but he was upset by UCLA's Steve Lewis.
Barnes has been the outdoor world record-holder since last May, when he put the shot 75 feet 10 inches in the Jack-in-the-Box meet at UCLA. He also set the indoor world record in Los Angeles with a put of 74-4 1/4 in the 1989 Sunkist Meet at the Sports Arena.
He was involved in one of the most dramatic competitions in Seoul. After moving into first place on his sixth and final put, he could only watch as the favorite from East Germany, Ulf Timmerman, regained the lead and won the gold medal on his final effort.
The result of a routine drug test taken by Barnes after a meet on Aug. 7 in Malmo, Sweden, has been the subject of speculation since a French sports newspaper, L'Equipe, reported in September that his urine sample contained traces of a banned performance-enhancing substance.
Although the IAAF did not confirm that report until Monday, sources told The Times last month that Barnes tested positive for an anabolic steroid, methyltestosterone, but that a procedural error in the testing caused the IAAF to form a five-member panel from among its doping commission to study the case.
According to the IAAF statement, the panel recommended Barnes' suspension.
Reynolds tested positive for another anabolic steroid, nandralone, at an Aug. 12 meet in Monte Carlo, but reports of that did not surface in the media until Monday.
In a statement released before he received word of the IAAF announcement Monday, Reynolds denied that he had used steroids.
"People who know Butch Reynolds realized that these allegations are the result of some fallacy in the drug-testing system," he said. "People who know Butch Reynolds know that I have always been one of the strongest proponents of random year-around testing. I have never used steroids.
"I have taken drug tests five times over the past 10 months. Believe me, the results from Monte Carlo are completely inconsistent with my history, and, to my knowledge, cannot be medically supported."
In an interview with The Times in September, Barnes also denied that he had used steroids.
The suspensions, if upheld, might further damage the credibility of a sport that already is having difficulty attracting crowds, sponsors and media attention in the United States.
Reynolds and Barnes could be removed from the scene just as one of the sport's foremost drawing cards, Johnson, returns. He tested positive for a steroid after winning the 100 meters in Seoul and later was stripped of his world record after admitting a long history of drug use.
He was eligible to return after a two-year suspension on Sept. 25 and is scheduled to make several indoor appearances this winter, including one in the Jan. 18 Sunkist meet at the Sports Arena.