Allyson Felix is young (22), bright (she will get her degree in elementary education from Southern California on May 16), and talented (she is the best U.S. bet for Olympic gold at 200 meters in Beijing this summer).
She is also committed to proving to the skeptics and the nonbelievers that someone can be successful in track and field without using performance-enhancing drugs.
Felix, who will compete today in the USA vs. the World races at the Penn Relays, is a participant in Project Believe, a program developed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to improve the accuracy of doping tests and provide baseline body chemistry figures for track athletes.
Felix said yesterday she jumped at the chance to take part in the program when it was presented to her by USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart.
"I felt I've always been willing to submit to tests," she said. "We want to do as much as we can to take a stand against doping, so I think this program was the perfect thing, especially given the climate of the sport right now."
Track and field has taken several hits in recent years because of top athletes taking drugs. Marion Jones, a frequent contestant at the Penn Relays, is serving jail time and has been forced to give back her Olympic medals. Other carnival participants such as Justin Gatlin and Tim Montgomery have been banned, although Gatlin is appealing.
Decathlete Bryan Clay also has confirmed his participation in the USADA program, which has yet to be officially launched but is reported to include mandatory testing in competition and random testing out of competition.
Felix said she knows a "good number" of athletes are taking part but is not sure who they are.
Felix said that every Wednesday she drives 30 miles to a lab near her home in Santa Clarita, Calif., and submits five vials of blood to be tested.
When she was told it sounded like a huge sacrifice, Felix replied, "I don't mind. I couldn't be more happy to be a part of it and to make the sacrifices."
Felix, who won three gold medals at last year's world championships, was part of two victorious relay teams at the 2007 USA vs. the World competition. This year, she said she will run only in the 4x100.
She said one of her goals this year is to win gold in the Olympic 200 meters, where she took silver in 2004. But she also is going to give the 100 a try at the U.S. Olympic trials to try to get on the 4x100 team for Beijing.
Many contenders for the U.S. Olympic team are expected to run today. Olympic gold medalists Jeremy Wariner and Darold Williamson will be joined by Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon and LaShawn Merritt on the men's side. Sanya Richards, who ran for Texas at the Penn Relays and won Olympic gold in 2004, will be part of the U.S. women's team along with Felix, Lauren Williams, Torri Edwards and Michelle Perry.
Asafa Powell, the world record-holder at 100 meters, will not run.