Titlists Share Pain, Glory Of Their Sport -- Norwood, Starostin Cast Off Drug Ban



Gold: Lori Norwood U.S.

Silver: Tatiana Chernetskaya USSR

Bronze: Kimberly Arata U.S.


Gold: Anatoli Starotsin USSR

Silver: Vahktang Yagorasvili USSR

Bronze: Velizar Iliev USSR


ENUMCLAW - Lori Norwood of the United States and Anatoli Starostin of the Soviet Union live on opposite sides of the world, but they have a painful chapter of their athletic biographies in common.

Plus a happy denouement.

Both Norwood and Starostin, the gold medalists in the Goodwill Games modern pentathlon yesterday at the King County Fairgrounds, have climbed back to the pinnacle of their sport after enduring a 2 1/2-year ban by the International Olympic Committee.

Norwood and Starostin were among a group of 15 randomly selected pentathletes who failed tests for a sedative, gamma-butyrolactone, at the 1986 world championships in Italy.

The athletes claim the standards were not publicized at all prior to the crackdown and say the penalties were extremely severe for a first offense.

Norwood, who denies ever taking any banned substance, turned her back on the sport. Just a few months before, as a 21-year-old rising star, she had won the bronze medal at the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow.

She went back to school at the University of Texas, got her degree and pursued her other talent, sculpting.

``I sold my pistols,'' said Norwood, of San Antonio. ``I sold my boots.''

Starostin, the 1980 Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion, spent the time looking after his children in Moscow and taking part in local competitions with his club team.

``Anatoly and I are personal friends and I think he got screwed,'' said Rob Stull, the U.S. champion who finished fifth in the Goodwill Games. ``It's a shame they had to serve a 30-month penalty.''

Norwood vowed never to participate in pentathlon again. But she still was doing a great deal of recreational running and U.S. Coach Janusz Peciak casually keptsuggesting she take a social run with the team.

``Then he said, `Come over for a fencing lesson, just for fun. Come and ride,' '' Norwood recalled. ``I loved the horses. I missed them so much.''

So she went to ride the horses. Before she knew it, she was back on the team, which was Peciak's objective all along.

``The weird thing is that it turned out to be a blessing - in a real disguise,'' she said of the ban. ``I came back much better than I was when I left.''

She used to struggle with the fencing event. ``There's something you need in fencing that's like being sneaky or cunning and that didn't come naturally to me at all,'' she said.

But when she returned to the sport, she was surprised to discover that the exile had somehow helped her synthesize her previous fencing training. It came much more easily.

``The time out kind of put everything into perspective,'' she said. ``It's not life or death, like it was before.''

Her first season back, 1989, hardly could have been more spectacular. Last August in Austria, she became the first American woman to win a world championship. She was nominated for the Sullivan Award as the best amateur athlete in the United States.

She placed second in last year's national championships - having cut a cast off a broken arm weeks early - and won it this year, in San Antonio in June.

While Starostin won the Goodwill Games by dominating from beginning to end, Norwood took another route. Sixth at the close of the shooting and fencing events Monday, she was fifth after yesterday's first event, the swim.

She took command of the competition with her speciality, the cross-country run. The runners start in reverse-handicap order, so overall leader Tatiana Chernetskaya and three others began well ahead. Chernetskaya, the defending Goodwill Games gold medalist, had been imposingly consistent.

But Norwood made up ground quickly over the 2,000-meter course and finally ran down Chernetskaya in an exciting pursuit, overtaking her in the last 800 meters.

``I knew I was within range to catch a lot of people, but I didn't know if I could catch Tatiana,'' Norwood said. ``She's a good runner. With jet lag, maybe she didn't run as well as she usually runs.''

The U.S. women excelled in the final event, the equestrian jumping, while the Soviets, who have limited access to horses for practice at home, performed poorly.

All three U.S. women had perfect rides. Terry Lewis of San Antonio won the event, Norwood was second and teammate Kim Arata placed fourth. Norwood's ride cinched the gold, while Arata's ride enabled her to edge Dorota Idzi of Poland, the 1988 world champion, by a single point for the bronze.

``We are all very happy that Lori won because in 1986 in my country, I won,'' said Chernetskaya, who took the silver medal yesterday. ``And in 1990, in her country, she won.''