Griffith-Joyner enjoyed creating some flair while she raced. She arrived at the track in one-pieces, lycra hoodies, one-legged full-body suits, and sporting talon-like fingernails, heavily decorated. This certainly helped the attention, and created an aura of spectacle on the track to complement her speed.
Yet one can't shake the feeling that something fishy was going on underneath the glamour of it all. In retrospect, the mid-to-late 80's were notorious for drug-fueled athletics, and at the 1988 Games alone, Ben Johnson's failed test in the sprint cast a dark shadow over the competition. To this day, Griffith-Joyner holds the three-best 100m times ever and the two-best in the 200m. That, despite the advancements in training and nutrition over the last 26 years - and that the men's equivalent records are only five years old today. Plus, her muscular physique at the '88 Games, compared to her more soft look in previous competitions did not go unnoticed, and certainly contributed to a whisper campaign. Plus, Griffith-Joyner retired without further major competition, and just ahead of announced new upgrades in anti-doping measures by the track world. Her death in 1998 brought back the whispers, and talk of steroid-induced health damage. In the end, though, she never had failed a doping test.
I have conflicted emotions. As a fan of UCLA sport (she was an '82 graduate) and as a budding Olympic and track fan, I was thrilled at the stories of her success, young enough to believe the fantasy and glamour. I remember particular excitement when she was on campus and stood in line behind me as I shopped at the campus store; there was a hero in my midst. Now, older and unfortunately more wiser to the ways of the old world, I feel bittersweet; nostalgic when looking at images of Griffith-Joyner's colorful speed and presence, but irritated when I look at the record books today. I don't think that will ever change for me.