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Mary Decker

From Academic Kids

Mary Slaney (born Mary Teresa Decker August 4, 1958) is an American Track and Field athlete, who holds seven American records in her sport. In 1981 she married marathoner Ron Tabb. The couple divorced two years later and on Jan. 1, 1985 Mary Decker married discus thrower Richard Slaney.

Making her international track debut as a pigtailed, 89 pound fourteen-year-old girl, "Little Mary Decker" became one of the most famous Track and Field competitors of her era.

In 1983, Decker completed the "Decker Double", winning both the 1500 meter and 3000 meter events at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. Sports Illustrated magazine named her Sportsperson of the Year for 1983.

Decker was heavily favored to win a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics, held at Los Angeles. In the 3000 meters final, Zola Budd, running barefoot half a stride ahead of Decker, moved to the inside lane, Decker collided with Budd and fell spectacularly to the curb. Decker's hip was injured and she was unable to resume the race. She was carried from the track by her future husband. At a press conference she said that Budd was to blame for the collision.

Slaney returned to competition in January 1985, winning the Sunkist Invitational Indoor 2000 meters race, also in Los Angeles. Asked to apologize for her comments about Budd, she answered "I don't feel that I have any reason to apologize. I was wronged, like anyone else in that situation".

Slaney and Budd met once again in July 1985, in a 3000 meters race at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, in London. Slaney won the race, and Budd finished in fourth place. After the race, the two women shook hands and made up.

Slaney had a magnificent season in 1985, winning twelve prestigious mile and 3000 meters races in the European athletics calendar. She sat out the 1986 season to give birth to her only child, daughter Ashley Lynn (born May 30, 1986), but missed the 1987 season through injury, failed to medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea and did not qualify for the 1992 Games.

In 1996, at the age of 37, as she was qualifying for the Olympics to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, Slaney became involved in the biggest controversy of her life. A urine test taken in June at the Olympic Trials showed a testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E) ratio greater than the allowable maximum of six to one. Disputes over that test result went on for years and the test remains controversial.

Slaney and her lawyers have contended that the T/E ratio test is unreliable for women, especially women in their late 30s or older who are taking birth control pills. An International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) arbitration panel eventually ruled that it wasn't necessary to show that a T/E ratio was high because of a banned substance; the mere fact that the ratio was over the allowable maximum was enough. USA Track and Field (USATF) sided with Slaney.

In June, 1997, the IAAF banned Slaney from competition. In September, a USATF panel reinstated her. The IAAF cleared Slaney to compete but took the case to arbitration. In April, 1999, the arbitration panel ruled against Slaney, after which the IAAF stripped her of a silver medal she had won in the 1500 meters at the 1997 world indoor championships.

Slaney filed suit against both the IAAF and the U.S. Olympic Committee which administered the test, arguing that the test is flawed and cannot distinguish between androgens caused by the use of banned substances and androgens resulting from the use of birth control pills. The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction, a decision which was upheld on appeal.

In 2000, at the age of 40, Slaney again attempted to return to the Olympics, which were held in Sydney, Australia. She failed to qualify, however.

In 2003, Slaney was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, as well as being honored as one of the Rocky Mountains greatest athletes ever.

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