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Wednesday, September 23, 1998 Published at 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK


Suspicion surrounds Flo-Jo's death

Flo-Jo's colouful nails - but her medal successes are still in doubt

British athletics chief David Moorecroft says only an autopsy will reveal the truth
The sudden death of Florence Griffith-Joyner, from heart seizure in California on Monday, has been greeted with suspicion by many from the world of athletics.

The American sprinter, whose achievements at the 1988 Seoul Olympics included two gold medals and one silver, was widely regarded to have used drugs.

And her death, at the age of 38, has again raised doubts over how she achieved her considerable success.

Kriss Akabusi discusses Flo-Jo's tragic death
Speaking on BBC TV, the British sprinter Kriss Akabusi said Griffith Joyner's career had been plagued by suspicion, especially when she retired only four months after the introduction of random drug testing.

"I can't say that I suspected her of anything," he said. "But there was a whispering campaign going on."

"I think it's perhaps too early to make such harsh judgements. She did do something superb after all. Her talent was phenomenal. But it all happened overnight."

[ image: Flamboyant to the last]
Flamboyant to the last
Griffith-Joyner, nicknamed 'Flo-Jo' - who never failed a drugs test - was among America's most flamboyant athletes.

Renown for her eye catching outfits, she became one of the most celebrated athletes in the world.

Her 200m world record of 21.34 and her 100m record of 10.47 remain unbeaten and Tom Serber, an official of US track and Field has admitted that they are likely to last "for another decade".

"We will never see her kind again," he said. "Flo Jo was one of the most special athletes we have ever seen for her speed, grace and beauty."

But the sheer margin of Flo-Jo's records continues to cause suspicion. In comparison, the current top sprinter, Marion Jones, has only achieved 21.62 and 10.61.

Tears in short supply

Tom Serber of the USA Track and Field Association
As news spread around the Olympic village in Kuala Lumpur where athletes from the Commonwealth Games were preparing to return home, it became clear that many were not surprised by the sprinter's death.

The Australian long-jumper, David Colbert, said he was under no illusions that her records would be impossible to beat.

"It is a tragedy for anyone to die so young. But her world record in Indianapolis was always questionable," he said.

Jane Flemming, who came seventh in the heptathlon, was equally suspicious.

"I remember her runs in '88," she said. "They were awesome. Very few of us found it credible.

"I think this is a wake up call. They'll be a lot of people rushing to their doctors today [Tuesday]."

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