Kevin Braunskill could fly on a track, but even with that magnificent speed of his, he was unable to chase down his dream of running in the Olympic Games.
The former standout sprinter whose specialty was the 200 meters, had reached the semifinals of the Olympic trials in 1992. Two years later, though, Braunskill’s pursuit of a place on the United States team for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta came to a crashing halt when he received a four-year suspension from the sport by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) for testing positive for steroid use in 1994.
Braunskill, a native of Delaware who starred for Riverhead High School before becoming an all-American at North Carolina State, was found to have the prohibited anabolic agent stanozolol in his system at the New York City Games on May 22, 1994.
A question surrounding the handling of Braunskill’s urine sample was raised. USA Track and Field, the sport’s national governing body, maintained that correct testing procedure wasn’t followed in the urine testing that was done at an International Olympic
Committee-accredited laboratory in Los Angeles. It was because of this that USA Track and Field had exonerated Braunskill, taking the position that this deviation from procedure should invalidate the test.
The IAAF didn’t see it that way, however.
The Braunskill case was brought to an arbitration hearing in Monaco, France, where the IAAF determined that the departures from procedure cast no doubt on the reliability of the findings and stated that there was no question that the urine samples belonged to Braunskill and he must serve the suspension.
Braunskill, who was present at the hearing, reportedly took the news hard and was so shaken by the panel’s decision that tears welled in his eyes after it was announced.
Giorgio Reineri, director of the IAAF press department, said the IAAF had no choice but to declare Braunskill ineligible. “Braunskill is a very nice guy, but he made a mistake and he must pay,” Reineri told The News-Review after the arbitration hearing. “It sometimes happens. You make a mistake in life.”
Braunskill’s first public response to the suspension came nine days after the ruling in the form of a four-paragraph statement issued by his attorney in which Braunskill insisted that he never took performance-enhancing drugs. He also said the IAAF failed to follow its own rules, and he contended that he was a victim of a political struggle between the national and international federations.
Later, in an interview with The News-Review, Braunskill sounded philosophical in discussing the suspension. “I’m not bitter at all,” he said. “My time will come.”
Furthermore, Braunskill said he didn’t resent the IAAF’s actions. “The IAAF did what they were supposed to do,” he said.
Instead, he reserved his irritation for USA Track and Field, which he said “left me out to dry.” He complained that the national federation didn’t send a representative to his arbitration hearing or forward a transcript of USA Track and Field’s doping panel hearing in which he was exonerated.
Years later, Braunskill sounded as if he was over his disappointment.
“I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and I’ve gotten a lot more mature,” he told The News-Review. “…Track and field is just a sport. It’s not my life.”
Braunskill was said to be running at his best at the time of his suspension. His personal-best time in the 200 was 20.14. In 1994, he was ranked eighth in the world in the 200 by Track & Field News.
Braunskill had a successful college career at North Carolina State. He received six outdoor all-American honors and another four indoors. Braunskill holds North Carolina State indoor records in the 55 meters (6.17 seconds in 1991) and 200 (20.75 in 1991). He also ran for the Wolfpack’s record-setting outdoor 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams.
In recognition of his college track achievements, Braunskill was voted in as one of the 52 members of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th anniversary outdoor team.
Track and field can get heated in the ACC, and Braunskill was involved in a bizarre story from an indoor meet in 1991. After winning the 200-meter title, Braunskill allegedly hit the third-place finisher, James Trapp of Clemson, on the head with the championship trophy.
At Riverhead High School, Braunskill and his cousin, Carl Smith, were the headline performers for a talented Blue Waves team. They pushed each other in practice.
“We had an unbelievable team,” Smith said. “To run against him, it brought the best out of me.”
Joe Ogeka, the former Riverhead track coach, remembers Braunskill being a hard worker. While Braunskill excelled in the 200, Smith’s preferred event was the 100.
“It’s like comparing Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas,” Ogeka said. “Those guys were good friends, and one would make the other work harder.”
Braunskill went on to become a world junior champion in the 200 in 1988.
Although Braunskill never played football in high school and said he had a short stint playing wide receiver in college, he flirted with professional football. He played for a semipro team, the Redan Stone Mountain Raiders in Georgia, and trained with over a half-dozen NFL teams. With his speed — he could run the 40-yard dash on grass, wearing cleats, in 4.17 seconds — Braunskill hoped to an entice an offer he couldn’t refuse. At 5-foot-10, 172 pounds, his size and ability to take hits might have been a concern, though, and he never latched onto an NFL roster.
Braunskill did make it to the Olympic Games in Atlanta, by the way — as a spectator, not a participant.