Mary Decker, one of the top middle-distance runners in the world, said today that although steroids have been part of track and field for a long time, records "are going to be different now if the testing is so effective that they rid track of drugs."
In an interview before winning the 3,000 meters event in an international track meet here tonight, Decker said: "I think it's good if they have now found the means to control it."
Decker, who won two gold medals in the recent world championships at Helsinki, said she has never taken steroids and feels no desire to do so even if scientific evidence proved they could enhance performance.
The drug scandal at the Pan American Games last week--in which 16 athletes were found to have traces of banned substances in their systems and 11 Americans left the Games before they could be tested--is having repercussions in Europe. The news has dominated conversation among American track stars participating in the European summer circuit.
"The basic reason I'm opposed to them (anabolic steroids) is that I'm female and I don't want to see women taking male hormones," Decker said. "Second, I feel I have a lot of talent that could be developed naturally, so why should I start messing around chemically with my body?"
Decker said the deepest fears among athletes who experiment with steroids involve not just short-term risks but unexpected side-effects that may surface years after they stop competing.
"To me it would be really scary, not knowing what might happen to your body 10 years down the road," she said. "I don't want to try them and I don't think other women should take them."
Decker said she could understand why the 11 U.S. athletes would walk out of the Pan American Games rather than submit to the rigid testing and risk of losing eligibility for next year's Olympics.
But she said they should not be hounded by suspicions that they were "dirty" or implicit users of illegal substances.
"I can't really comment on their decisions," she said. "After all, they have their freedom of choice."
The advanced testing procedures now seem certain to become part of track and field. Decker admitted that this could change the nature of the sport, affecting the personalities as well as performances of athletes.
"It's becoming an inevitable part of the sport," she said. "You now have to be expected to be tested."
Apart from the competitive pressures of the events, the athletes will now be subjected to added psychological strain: if they submit to intense testing, could the results be positive simply because of innocuous or legitimate, medicinal substances?
"It's already a drag when you go to a competition and have to stick around a couple of hours just to give a sample of yourself proving you are clean," she said. "Now we have to worry about tests that are so sensitive they may affect innocent people."