Olympic Track and Field Star Butch Reynolds Was Accused of Using Drugs and He Fought Back

Butch Reynolds was once one of the fastest men in the world, until a false positive drug test changed his life forever.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jun. 10 2024, Published 10:28 p.m. ET

Butch Reynolds stretches at the 1992 Olympics
Source: Getty Images

In a March 2015 interview with Run Blog Run, former Olympic gold and silver medals winner Butch Reynolds said something quite surprising. "I didn’t train for track and field in high school," he revealed. He graduated in 1983 and went on to Butler County Community College to tighten up his running game. After a brief time there, he headed to Ohio State University. Butch was convinced by his former coach that he would soon be a world record breaker.

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According to the Los Angeles Times, in August 1988, Butch set the new "400-meter record in 43.29 seconds." It was previously held by Lee Evans who ran a "43.86 at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, a record set at high altitude." Two years later, Butch ran the 400 at a Grand Prix meet in Monte Carlo and was randomly selected to be drug tested, reported Sports Illustrated. That's when his entire life fell apart. Where is Butch Reynolds now? He's a helper.

Butch Reynolds in action during Men's 400M at IU Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium in July 1988
Source: Getty Images
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What is Butch Reynolds up to now?

In August 2021, Butch chatted with the Buckeyes Wire exactly 33 years after becoming the fastest man in the world. And while two more people would go on to break that record, it's still something that fills Butch with an immense sense of pride. On Aug. 17, 1988, Butch didn't realize what had happened until his brother Jeff was grabbing him while screaming, "You did it! You did it!" Butch looked up at the clock and collapsed.

Butch described this as a "change of life moment," and it happened before he was even in the Olympics. Since then his career has been marked by victories and tragedy. Nowadays he focuses on his charity work with his foundation Butch Reynolds Care for Kids. Established in 1995, the charity provides after-school alternatives to help kids boost their confidence, learn discipline, and create healthy habits.

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He also founded and ran the Butch Reynolds Speed Academy, which taught students the proper techniques when it came to running. Butch emphasized form over quickness and said without knowing the correct way to run, "There's no way that he or she can optimize their true athletic ability." Unfortunately, the academy is gone but Butch still provides personal speed and agility training.

Butch Reynolds of the USA (right) with brother Jeff acknowledges the crowd after winning the 400 Metres event
Source: Getty Images
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What happened to Butch Reynolds?

When Butch was pulled aside and tested for steroids in August 1990 by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), he was asked to provide a urine sample that was divided up between two containers. He was one of 10 athletes tasked with doing this, and everyone's samples were confidential. Due to this, they were labeled H1 through H10. The only reason both containers would be tested was if the first came back positive.

Butch's urine samples were labeled H5 and were sealed and sent to a laboratory in Paris to be tested. According to the IAAF, both of Butch's containers tested positive for anabolic steroid nandrolone. This resulted in a two-year suspension rendering Butch unable to compete two days later which was one week after the Olympic final. Butch maintained his innocence the entire time but wasn't able to present his case to a three-person IAAF panel until May 10, 1991.

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Butch's evidence was built on paperwork. The technician who tested the samples circled H6 on Butch's paperwork. He was of course H5 and posited that the positive result was actually for the H6 sample, not Butch's. Jean-Pierre LaFarge, the director of the lab, was at the hearing where he insisted the technician told him H5 was the positive sample. When asked why H6 was circled, not once but twice, he said, "I am unlucky with circles that day."

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Butch fought the IAAF for almost two years until in 1991, the United States Supreme Court stepped in and "declared him eligible to compete at the 1992 Olympic Trials," via Olympics.com. Despite qualifying for the 4x400 relay team, the IAAF didn't allow Butch to participate in the 1992 Olympics.

The Los Angeles Times reported that in December 1992, a federal judge awarded Butch $27.3 million in a lawsuit he filed against the IAAF. They chose to ignore the decision and called it "worthless." They released a statement claiming they wouldn't comply with this and were considering a countersuit. As of the time of this writing, Butch hasn't received a dime from the IAAF.

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