By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
SYDNEY -- Donovan Bailey is too weak and sick to run for the men's 4x100-metre relay team, but he's not too ill to party.
The 1996 Olympic 100-metre gold medallist and longtime anchor of the powerful Canadian men's relay team, officially withdrew from the competition yesterday because he is still feeling the effects of a viral infection.
The sprinter from Oakville has reportedly lost as much as 10 pounds and said earlier this week that he looks like "a 1,500-metre runner from Ethiopia."
Canadian track and field coach Brent McFarlane confirmed last night that Bailey would not compete in the relay when heats begin today.
McFarlane said Bailey, 32, tried to work out this week but was too drained to compete. But that hasn't stopped the controversial sprinter from hanging out at the Moose Lodge, a lively Sydney pub frequented by Canadian athletes. Bailey was at the bar well into the wee hours early yesterday and was sighted there the day before, too.
"Maybe he's trying to get his spirits up," relay-team member Brad McCuaig of Calgary said. "He's different than me. Maybe that's how he gets ready to run. Me answering certain questions can get me in a lot of hot water. If we're all sitting at a bar and it's 1 a.m. and this is a week (after) the Olympic Games, you need to bump into me then."
McFarlane said Bailey, who failed to qualify for the 100-metre semi-finals last week because of his ill-health, did his best to try to get back for the relay. But another team official, who asked to remain anonymous, has not been impressed with Bailey or fellow Canadian sprint star Bruny Surin, who is out with a injured hamstring.
"Donovan and Bruny care about the relay team about as much as I care about the Maple Leafs," said the source, who does not live near Toronto. "It's disappointing."
McCuaig said there is a sense of relief on the squad now that the issue with Bailey has been settled .
"We've got to pull together as a team," McCuaig said. "I don't think people expect us to do anything, so the pressure is off. "
The Canadian team cruised to the 1996 Olympic title and two world championships on its speed and camaraderie. That closeness went south last year at the worlds when Bailey and Surin feuded over who would be the anchor. The team didn't even make it to the final.
"What happened last year was exactly what we didn't want to happen this year," McCuaig said. "And that's kind of what happened again."
The four who will run for Canada -- McCuaig, veteran Glenroy Gilbert and newcomers Pierre Browne and Nicolas Macrozonaris -- worked out for the final time early this morning. It's expected that McCuaig will lead off, followed by Gilbert, 31, and then Browne and Macrozonaris, both of whom are 20. McFarlane said that Toronto hurdler Adrian Woodley, 24, would run the anchor if Macrozonaris is mentally unfit. Macrozonaris of Montreal has reportedly been a bundle of nerves all week.
Only Gilbert has run the relay at this level before.