RANDY BARNES Born June 16, 1966 in Charleston, WV 6-4/1.93m 319/144kg St. Albans HS, South Charleston, WV '85 Texas A&M '87 PRs (outdoor): SP 75-10.25/23.12m '90 (WR) DT 203-11/62.16m '87 PR (indoor): SP 74-4.25/22.66m '89 (WR) Major Meets (SP unless noted): 1984 5)USA Junior 1986 4)NCAA Indoor 18q)NCAA DT 1987 nm)NCAA 15q)NCAA 1988 1)Olympic Trials 2)Olympic Games 1989 1)USA Indoor 2)World Indoor 1)USA 3)World Cup 1990 1)USA Indoor 2)USA 1993 3)USA Indoor 1)USA 2)World Championships 1994 2)USA 1)GP Final 1995 7)USA Indoor 3)USA 3)World Championships 1996 1)Olympic Trials 1)Olympic Games 2)GP Final
Last year Randy Barnes finally made it to the top, grabbing the Olympic gold that had eluded him when he was a young man of 22 in Seoul, Korea. Ironically, this time it was Barnes who did the wrenching. With one throw left in the Games, he had a best of 67-0.75, which might have gotten him a bus ride back to the Athletes' Village, but certainly not a medal.
He stepped into the ring, with John Godina, the leader, watching intently. He launched into his characteristic spin, and the ball flew, and flew, landing at 70-11.25, more than two feet beyond Godina's best. Barnes, at last, had his gold medal.
The victory came to an athlete who had traveled a long and hilly road. At one point, he was hailed as the exciting new star of the shot put as he destroyed Randy Matson's school records in his first season at Texas A&M. He went on to break World records of his own. But Barnes has also been reviled as one of the sport's villains as the result of his 1990 positive test for steroids.
As a high schooler in West Virginia, he had thrown an impressive 66-9.5 with the prep shot, but he didn't capture national attention until he started working with Texas A&M assistant Robert Parker. Using the spin technique, Barnes tossed the 16lb ball an incredible 71-9.5 as a frosh. A hand injury limited his season, but he still ranked number nine in the world.
The next year he threw 68-8.5 and got a discus PR of 203-11, but his hand still bothered him. He came to the NCAA as a double favorite and went home empty-handed.
In 1988, healthy again, Barnes saw improvement come fast. He won the Olympic Trials by a meter and pushed his best up to 73-6.75 at the prestigious Weltklasse meet in Zurich. Then, at the Seoul Olympics, Barnes found himself out of the medals after five rounds, with his best a sub-par 69-11. "I decided to get reckless," he said. He exploded to an Olympic record 73-5.5, inches ahead of Ulf Timmermann. The East German went to the well and came up with a 73-8.75 to steal the gold away.
In 1989, Barnes came back better, setting a still-standing World Indoor record of 74-4.25 early in the season, though Timmermann got the better of him at the World Indoor. The next year, he blasted a World record 75-10.25 at the Jack-in-the-Box meet in Westwood. The continued escalation of marks had to end somewhere, and by season's end, the news came down. Barnes had tested positive for methyltestosterone at the August 7 meet in Malmo, Sweden.
Both Barnes' A and B samples tested positive, and the IAAF refused his appeal. A three-member U.S. panel upheld the suspension, but admitted, "under U.S. standards it is inconceivable that a sample to be used as evidence against an accused person would have gone through the process that Mr. Barnes' sample did and still constitute reliable evidence."
The two-year suspension wouldn't lift until after the 1992 Olympic Trials. Barnes, anxious to get the gold that had eluded him at Seoul, attempted to get into the Trials via legal action. The effort, lost in the headlines at the peak of the Butch Reynolds controversy, failed.
He remains bitter about that episode in his life: "I still have serious concerns with how the drug testing system continues to become more and more intrusive in our lives with still no guarantee of integrity at the laboratory level or in some cases even chemical certainty of a result."
Barnes adds, "I don't think the governing bodies ever set out to harm me from the start. I just don't think they cared much if that's what it took to straighten out the mess my case became. . . I'd rather lose to a drug user today and train harder and beat him next week or next month, than suffer the life-long humiliation and frustration of a wrongful ban."
When the ban finally lifted, Barnes came back in 1993 and won the USA Championship before grabbing a silver at the World Championships behind Werner Gunthor. In Gothenburg, his second Worlds, he earned a bronze medal, complaining that he was overweight. When asked what diet he had in mind, he explained, "Just don't eat."
When asked about his Olympic prospects, he said, "I've left behind a pretty ugly wake the last two years. That's about to change."
Change it did in 1996. First he upset Godina to win the Trials with a 70-1.5 put, admitting that prior to the competition, he was "petrified." Then he pulled off his stunning last round victory in the Olympics, saying, "This solidifies my career. It's definitely a pinnacle."