Unexpectedly fast times, mysterious no-shows, predictable no-comments and, of course, lingering drug questions dominated the men's and women's 200 Friday at the U.S. Olympic trials at Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex -- and it was just the preliminary rounds.
The night took off with an Olympic trials record time by Shawn Crawford, the third-place finisher in the 100, who topped Michael Johnson's former record by a hundredth of a second with a time of 19.88, the best in the world this year. It ended with the withdrawal of Chryste Gaines, ensuring that none of the six athletes formally charged in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal will qualify for the Olympic team here.
In between, Marion Jones floundered again. Two athletes revealed this week to have tested positive for drugs competed and advanced. LaTasha Colander, the 100 champion, dropped out because of an apparent injury, but was later accused by her coach, Trevor Graham, of faking it.
Not surprisingly, leading into a weekend supposed to be about putting the finishing touches on a star-studded U.S. Olympic team, the action took the usual detour, as The Post and Chicago Tribune reported on their Web sites that another athlete, sprinter Mickey Grimes, tested positive for a banned steroid.
That development, the third drug positive leak in as many days, led USA Track and Field CEO Craig Masback to be summoned to an impromptu news conference to discuss the state of the sport.
"Martha Stewart got sentenced today; Ken Lay got charged recently," Masback said. "People cheat on their taxes and Jayson Blair made up stories. We've got a society that unfortunately some people are going to choose to try to beat the system. [But] we have a way of systematically catching those people and washing our dirty laundry publicly."
Hours after the revelation that he tested positive for norandrosterone in May, Grimes easily advanced in the 200, winning his heat in 20.39 seconds. It was the fourth-best time of the night, trailing only the marks of Crawford, 100 silver-medalist Justin Gatlin (20.06) and Tyson Gay (20.07).
Gatlin's time was the second-best in the world this year until Crawford made it third. Gay's time was third-best until Crawford pushed it to fourth.
"I came out trying to have a good showing, and prove to all the competitors that I'm ready," Gatlin said. "I've had some problems with my curves, so I went overseas to work on them, but my straightaway was phenomenal."
Grimes and Crawford declined to comment after their races.
Jones, fresh off a victory by nearly a foot in the long jump competition, either struggled in her heat or took it very easy -- very nearly too easy. One day after winning the long jump by 11 inches, Jones finished last in her qualifying heat and posted only the 10th fastest time (22.93 seconds). She nonetheless advanced because only one of the 20 entrants was eliminated. Six no-shows forced a reshuffling of the fields and the unusual qualifying situation. Jones, who has not talked to reporters during this competition, also refused to comment.
The most prominent woman not to take part was Colander, who pulled out because of a sore Achilles' suffered while competing in the rounds of the 100, according to a source. But Graham, her coach, told Reuters that Colander faked an injury on the warmup track before the race because she didn't want to run two events in Athens. "She . . . quit on me," Graham told Reuters. " . . . She felt like going to Athens in one event is good enough for her."
Colander, who won the 100 title last weekend, would have been the runaway favorite in the final. She was not available for comment after that.
Gaines, facing a lifetime ban for alleged drug violations, also withdrew despite having said several times before the race that she planned to compete. The final BALCO tally: Fiveathletes involved in the scandal failed to make the Olympic team in their events. Two pulled out. Gaines did both; she did not qualify in the 100, her preferred event, last weekend.
Torri Edwards, who tested positive for a banned stimulant in April and faces a drug hearing on Monday, becomes the favorite with Colander's departure, meaning USATF hasn't escaped the possibility of awkward situations.
Edwards easily advanced, winning her heat in the night's best time of 22.60, topping youngster Muna Lee (22.66). Should Edwards place in the top three as expected in the final, she would be in the position of possibly having to relinquish two Olympic spots should she be handed a two-year ban. Edwards finished second in the 100 last weekend.
Meantime, in the men's 1,500 semifinals later, South Lakes High's Alan Webb easily qualified in 3 minutes 39.92 seconds, leading his heat from the halfway point on and coasting to second place behind Michael Stember (3:39.74). Recent Navy graduate Aaron Lanzel failed to advance, posting the 15th best time (3:44.05).
In the men's decathlon, reigning world champion Tom Pappas led after five events with 4,474 points. Close behind was Bryan Clay, the 2004 World Indoor silver medalist, with 4,471 points. Five events remain Saturday.