Edwin Moses has a new license plate.

Gone is the easily identifiable "OL-YMPYN" that Los Angeles police immediately recognized after he spoke to a policewoman posing as a prostitute in January. In its place on his gray Mercedes is the usual anonymous gobbledygook of numbers and letters. Edwin Moses wants no more trouble.

Although Moses was found not guilty of soliciting the policewoman in a jury trial, his all-America good name clearly was tarnished long before that jury returned its verdict.

The decision he lost was to a jury comprised of representatives of Coca-Cola, General Electric, International Business Machines, American Telephone and Telegraph, the Southland Corp. (7-Eleven), and major German and Japanese electronics firms. They all stopped discussing possible endorsement deals with Moses in the aftermath of the incident.

The soft drink deal alone, according to sources, would have been worth more than $1 million. But Coke and the other contracts died a sudden death on the honky-tonk strip of Sunset Boulevard when the Olympian, 29, chose to roll down his window and talk to a young woman.

"To lots of people, I was guilty by just being there," Moses said. "Even some supporters don't believe I wasn't doing anything. I'm guilty until proven innocent. People have formed their opinions already."

Now Moses, his wife Myrella, and his agent, Gordon Baskin, are trying to repair the Olympic hero's image.

First was the trial. Moses faced a maximum fine of $1,000 as a first offender, if convicted. But he spent well over $100,000 on legal fees to defend his good name.

He is now giving away 10,000 tickets to poor youngsters for a track meet here. He has been busy attending such high-profile affairs as the Gridiron Dinner in Washington, and receiving awards in Italy and France as well as the NAACP's alumnus-of-the-year award.

He is also the celebrity in this year's United Cerebral Palsy fund-raising drive. Finally, he is intent on breaking the world record he holds in the 400-meter hurdles.

"I told him it's no use in me beating the bushes right now. Edwin, let's rehabilitate your image, let's do some good work for people, let's have a good year on the track . . . and then he'll come back stronger than ever," said Baskin.

Moses, meanwhile, is struggling to put the last three months behind him. Over two days, in his first extensive interview after the verdict, he alternated between vowing not to discuss what happened -- "That's the past" -- and painfully confronting the reality that his misstep on Sunset is as well known as his precise steps that led to Olympic glory. "I don't care what people think," he said.

In the pain of lost innocence, Edwin Moses also knows that despite the not guilty verdict, he has opened himself to a rat's nest he did not want to face -- his status as a black athlete in America.

"This gives people who didn't like me something to hang their hats on," he said. "It's a reason to hold back the bucks. Black athletes are always under more scrutiny . . . now there's something bad to say about Edwin Moses."

Moses was one of only four Americans to win gold medals in track and field in the 1976 Olympics. But that year the commercial spoils went to decathlon champion Bruce Jenner.

After last summer's games, most of the immediate endorsement prizes went to gymnast Mary Lou Retton. But Moses waited, confident in claiming his share of financial glory.

He is personable, articulate, smart. His only male competition for the booty, Carl Lewis, also is black but is viewed by some as haughty and self-centered.

Moses also has leadership ability. He is on the boards of directors of the U.S. Olympic Committee and The Athletics Congress, is a delegate to the International Amateur Athletics Federation and a representative to the International Olympic Committee.

It was Moses who pushed for Edwin Moses Despite Acquittal, Trial Continues For Olympic Star By Juan Williams Washington Post Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Edwin Moses has a new license plate.

Gone is the easily identifiable "OL-YMPYN" that Los Angeles police immediately recognized after he spoke to a policewoman posing as a prostitute in January. In its place on his gray Mercedes is the usual anonymous gobbledygook of numbers and letters. Edwin Moses wants no more trouble.

Although Moses was found not guilty of soliciting the policewoman in a jury trial, his all-America good name clearly was tarnished long before that jury returned its verdict.

The decision he lost was to a jury comprised of representatives of Coca-Cola, General Electric, International Business Machines, American Telephone and Telegraph, the Southland Corp. (7-Eleven), and major German and Japanese electronics firms. They all stopped discussing possible endorsement deals with Moses in the aftermath of the incident.

The soft drink deal alone, according to sources, would have been worth more than $1 million. But Coke and the other contracts died a sudden death on the honky-tonk strip of Sunset Boulevard when the Olympian, 29, chose to roll down his window and talk to a young woman.

"To lots of people, I was guilty by just being there," Moses said. "Even some supporters don't believe I wasn't doing anything. I'm guilty until proven innocent. People have formed their opinions already."

Now Moses, his wife Myrella, and his agent, Gordon Baskin, are trying to repair the Olympic hero's image.

First was the trial. Moses faced a maximum fine of $1,000 as a first offender, if convicted. But he spent well over $100,000 on legal fees to defend his good name.

He is now giving away 10,000 tickets to poor youngsters for a track meet here. He has been busy attending such high-profile affairs as the Gridiron Dinner in Washington, and receiving awards in Italy and France as well as the NAACP's alumnus-of-the-year award.

He is also the celebrity in this year's United Cerebral Palsy fund-raising drive. Finally, he is intent on breaking the world record he holds in the 400-meter hurdles.

"I told him it's no use in me beating the bushes right now. Edwin, let's rehabilitate your image, let's do some good work for people, let's have a good year on the track . . . and then he'll come back stronger than ever," said Baskin.

Moses, meanwhile, is struggling to put the last three months behind him. Over two days, in his first extensive interview after the verdict, he alternated between vowing not to discuss what happened -- "That's the past" -- and painfully confronting the reality that his misstep on Sunset is as well known as his precise steps that led to Olympic glory. "I don't care what people think," he said.

In the pain of lost innocence, Edwin Moses also knows that despite the not guilty verdict, he has opened himself to a rat's nest he did not want to face -- his status as a black athlete in America.

"This gives people who didn't like me something to hang their hats on," he said. "It's a reason to hold back the bucks. Black athletes are always under more scrutiny . . . now there's something bad to say about Edwin Moses."

Moses was one of only four Americans to win gold medals in track and field in the 1976 Olympics. But that year the commercial spoils went to decathlon champion Bruce Jenner.

After last summer's games, most of the immediate endorsement prizes went to gymnast Mary Lou Retton. But Moses waited, confident in claiming his share of financial glory.

He is personable, articulate, smart. His only male competition for the booty, Carl Lewis, also is black but is viewed by some as haughty and self-centered.

Moses also has leadership ability. He is on the boards of directors of the U.S. Olympic Committee and The Athletics Congress, is a delegate to the International Amateur Athletics Federation and a representative to the International Olympic Committee.

It was Moses who pushed for seven rules for fair treatment of athletes by European track organizers, even after he became a star attraction and was personally assured of good pay and kitten-glove treatment.

He also was selfless with his time with reporters during the Olympics, leading to overwhelmingly favorable articles about him.

On top of that, he lives simply in a cluttered two-bedroom condominium, apparently the epitome of the amateur athlete.

This seemed to be Moses' year, the time when the straight-arrow kid from Dayton, Ohio, the school principal's son and the Morehouse College physics major, would rise above any questions of race to become America's hero.

Now he has slipped -- despite the not guilty verdict -- and the big money seems to have slipped away, too.

The bitterness shows in quick bursts and accompanies the otherwise impenetrable, dignified stare that became familiar as he won two Olympic gold medals and earned 109 consecutive victories in the 400-meter hurdles.

"With black athletes, they're always looking for a slipup," he said. "How many excuses have they made for white athletes like Steve Howe (the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who has a cocaine problem)? A black athlete doesn't get any chances . . . .

"Nobody writes about how Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Evelyn Ashford (other black gold medal winners) never get any endorsements. Evelyn was pregnant. Why can't she endorse diapers or skin cream? . . . but now when I say that, people are going to say why am I talking about racism? What do I expect after what I got myself into? It doesn't help me to talk about it. It's a Catch-22."

But his wife, Myrella, is more open. Even when there was no smudge on her husband's image, she says he could never quite reach the title of all-America hero.

"If you are a black athlete, it's expected that you win," she said. "It's like they're the natural athletes so they should be expected to win. It's not like Edwin had to work hard for years to accomplish an Olympic gold medal."

Moses added: "I'm not a crybaby about race, but you can't deny the problem exists. I don't need the endorsements. I'll make it the old-fashioned way. I'll earn it without the commercials and endorsements . . . there's money to be made."

He says he will run in more meets, particularly in Europe, where he said he can earn between $20,000 and $25,000 in appearance fees per race. He will next run May 11 in an international meet in Brazil.

Baskin, his agent, recalls letters and phone calls from Europe asking "So what?" about Moses' arrest for talking to the policewoman.

Moses put his income for last year at about $500,000. That includes a 16-month deal with Kodak that has since expired. A six-year contract with adidas, the German sporting goods company, continues and so do the track meets.

Edwin Moses does not like to talk about what happened at about 3 a.m. on Jan. 13 in Hollywood. In court, he said he was stopped at a red light on Sunset Boulevard after leaving a party for the U.S. Olympic Committee's Athletes Advisory Council.

Police officer Susan Gonzales, posing as a prostitute, approached his car, he said, and he rolled down his window.

She spoke first, he said, and mentioned two sex acts and money. Moses said he joked with her that he had $100. She walked around the car, looked at his license plate, and left. He was arrested a block away.

According to the officer's testimony, Moses initiated the conversation and asked her, "How much for an hour?" She said he described the sex acts and mentioned $100.

Police said initially they had tapes of the conversation. But during the trial, police officials denied they had such tapes. Moses says he suspects the tapes were destroyed because they proved his case.

In fact, testimony from three police officers differed on what Moses said that night -- even whether he started the conversation.

"Their side of the story cinched my case for me," said Moses. "It just wasn't there, it just wasn't there." The city assigned a prosecutor who had won more than 300 consecutive cases to handle what became a public spectacle.

He asked the jury not to allow Moses to "finesse" his way through because he is a sports hero.

The jury found Moses not guilty after about two hours of deliberation. The jury foreman told reporters there were "doubts about the solicitation and about the intent." He cited what he said were inconsistencies in the police report.

The night of the incident, Moses was handcuffed and taken to jail. The next day, he attended morning meetings of the Olympic Committee and then at noon called his agent. That night, he reached his wife.

"He was totally broken down," said Myrella Moses, 25.

Did she doubt him? Was she embarrassed to have her husband arrested for allegedly seeking sex from a prostitute?

"A lot of women told me they would have screamed at him, 'Why did you do this to me?' " she said. "The way I see it, he did it to the whole world -- to his fans, to his supporters, to his friends from college, to his family, to me.

"But mostly I thought he did it to himself because of the trauma he had to go through with the police, the handcuffs and everything . . . the TV and the papers.

"My first thought was, how can I comfort this man, make him feel that he's still No. 1, still tops, no matter what."

Each day, after sitting in court in a blue suit, Moses was unable to go home. His condominium in Laguna Hills was besieged by TV cameras, so he went to Baskin's home.

On the way from court, he would change his clothes in the car -- putting on his running suit. He and Myrella would stop at Malibu Beach and the Olympic champion would run, alone with his thoughts, in the sand.

"After the Olympics, after being the U.S. Olympic Committee's sportsman of the year, Sports Illustrated's sportsman of the year, ABC's sportsman of the year, after all that, it was like somebody hit you with a sledgehammer," said his wife.

But she said she did not doubt her husband's story.

"What's important is that we don't let the rumors and the rest of it get between us," she said. "First of all, I know Edwin. Edwin wouldn't do anything like that. When he called me, I said, 'That's wild. Stay right there, I'm coming.'

"Edwin doesn't need to go to Sunset Strip if he's looking for women," she continued. "Women throw themselves at him. If he walks into a hotel lobby, women approach him. When we're dancing, women come up and pull at him. So I'm used to that and I know Edwin doesn't have to go places like that.

"That's why it's so ridiculous," she said.

In the late morning here, Edwin Moses takes off his sweat pants. His thighs are long and sleek, his calves large and powerful. Even so, he looks normal. But when he starts to run, he is transformed.

He is working out on the grass at the University of California-Irvine. When he begins running, the power in his legs thrusts him forward -- like pistons powering him along. Today, he is doing a series of runs at 400 meters and 800 meters.

"You're jamming, Edwin," said Myrella Moses, who is keeping time for him. He is five seconds ahead of his times in training at the same point in years past. He is intent on maintaining his status as the best in the world.

In addition to 109 straight victories in the 400-meter hurdles, he holds the world record, set in 1983, of 47.02 seconds.

"Once I'm in shape, there's nothing they can do," he said. "Nobody can walk on a track and beat me unless they have an extraordinary day and I have a bad day, which I keep from happening."

He checks his pulse after the last run. "You're in great shape, Edwin," says Myrella.

Moses bats his big eyes suggestively at his wife. She blushes.