Bailey vows to defend title
Perec gone, Miller out, Greene ailing
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Marie-Jose Perec's bizarre withdrawal and escape from the Olympics added to the long list of track and field stars who never made it to the starting line at the Sydney Games.
Perec, two-time defending champion in the 400 meters, flew out of Australia one day before Friday's first-round heats in her event. She claimed a man forced his way into her Sydney hotel room and threatened her.
Several other top athletes will be sitting out the games because of recent injuries, or ailments that prevented them from qualifying for the Olympics.
Frankie Fredericks, who won silver medals in the 100 and 200 at both the 1992 Barcelona Games and the 1996 Atlanta Games, is out with an Achilles' tendon injury.
Donovan Bailey, defending champion in the 100, was battling the flu Thursday but vowing to try to defend his title. Just getting to Sydney was a major struggle for Bailey, who ruptured his Achilles' tendon two years ago and hurt his hamstring at a meet this summer.
Bailey had acupuncture Thursday to try to clear his sinuses but still struggled at practice. Coach Dan Pfaff called Bailey's condition "a shell of what we are used to seeing."
Ludmila Engquist, defending Olympic champion in the 100-meter hurdles, retired in July because she was unable to recover from calf surgery. She made a dramatic return from breast cancer to win the bronze medal at the 1999 world championships.
"Only God knows how hard I tried to come back this time," she said, tears streaming down her face. "But the injury won't heal and only gets worse."
C.J. Hunter, world champion in the shot put, is sidelined following arthroscopic knee surgery. His American teammate, Regina Jacobs, who was among the favorites in the women's 1,500, had to withdraw because of a respiratory ailment.
Inger Miller was expected to be the chief threat to Marion Jones' hopes of sweeping the women's 100 and 200 sprints. Miller ranks second in the world to Jones in both events, and finished second to her in those races at the U.S. trials in July.
But Miller severely strained her left hamstring while training earlier this month, and decided this week to drop out of the 100 in hopes of giving her leg more time to heal for next week's 200.
"This is going to be the Missing Olympics," Miller said. "It's just ridiculous. The big stars are having to pull out."
Dieter Baumann, the 1992 Olympic champion at 5,000 meters, has been suspended for the Olympics because of a positive drug test -- though he's appealing the suspension and still hopes to compete in Sydney.
Also missing is defending Olympic decathlon champion Dan O'Brien, who dropped out of the U.S. trials because of a left foot injury. And though Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson will be in other events in Sydney, they'll be missing from the 200 because they limped out of the final in that event at the U.S. trials.
The reclusive and mysterious Perec, whose need for privacy and security apparently overwhelmed her desire to run, also was the defending champ in the women's 200 -- but hadn't even entered that event in Sydney.
After holding out hope all day that Perec somehow would return to the Olympics, the French team announced Thursday that she had withdrawn from the games and had flown to Singapore.
She and a companion left Singapore for Paris aboard an Air France jetliner late Thursday.
"The French delegation regrets that an athlete who has brought so much to Olympism in general, and to French sports in particular, is not participating in the Sydney Games," said a statement released by the French Olympic delegation.
The statement also said Perec's departure had nothing to do with drug tests and that she had not been subjected to an out-of-competition drug test before the games.
In Singapore, Perec and companion Anthuan Maybank, a former American 400-meter runner, were questioned by police following a scuffle with a television cameraman awaiting their arrival.
Denise Kaigler, spokeswoman for Perec's chief sponsor, Reebok, said Perec left the country after being accosted in her Sydney hotel by an unidentified man.
But there also were significant doubts about her fitness. Perec had run only one 400-meter race since 1996, finishing third in a race two months ago in Nice, France. She has been tormented by Epstein Barr syndrome, a rare virus that causes chronic fatigue.