Suspended in 2003 for failing a drug test, the former Leto High and University of South Florida standout received a two-year suspension from the sport for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
Cherry still denies knowingly taking the drug, which she said she ingested via contaminated vitamins. She served her two-year suspension but kept training at a high level, and she is now in a strong position to make her first Olympic team.
Despite the fact that Cherry has paid her dues and has returned to being among the world's elite hurdlers, she is somewhat invisible as she prepares to race as the No. 1 seed in today's opening round of the event at Hayward Field.
Cherry is unlisted in the USATF (but is the IAAF). Her coach is Dennis Mitchell,
USA Track and Field, the governing body of American track, doesn't even list Cherry among the athlete biographies on its Web site. And comments by some USATF officials indicate that Cherry's strong performances since her comeback have not made people forget her "doping suspension," as it is labeled next to Cherry's entry in the USATF media guide for the years 2004 and 2005.
It doesn't help that Cherry's coach and fiance, Dennis Mitchell, a former world-class sprinter from the University of Florida, also failed a drug test in 1998. He was later cleared by a USATF drug panel.
In a sport in which so many stars have let down fans, it is difficult for athletes like Cherry to get the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't help that she has become much faster since she started her 2006 comeback. Heading into today's qualifying rounds, Cherry's time of 12.47 seconds leads the world.
Yeah, Mitchell was cleared, by the US governing body, but not by the IAAF. Mitchell the of infamous: "five bottles of beer and sex with his wife at least four times" defense for high testosterone. Although this article is a bit unclear, Mitchell admitted to doping during the Trevor Graham trial. Cherry will always have a taint surrounding her (although she claims the + test was a vitamin prep)
"We've had athletes come back from suspension before, and I think the general public views them with some measure of skepticism, and probably rightfully so," Roe said. "There are people who will not forgive somebody who doesn't tell the truth once. That's why we have a system which allows people to come back into competition, because you don't know 100 percent that it was entirely the athlete's choice or the athlete's fault to do it."
Ask the athlete about doping: didn't do it, no one does.
Like so many athletes who have failed drug tests, Cherry is adamant that she didn't knowingly enhance her body with steroids.
"No, I did not use anything illegal on purpose, no," Cherry said. "I don't believe in that. I don't do that. ... I know in my heart I didn't do anything wrong. .... but I paid my dues and did what I had to do."
Perhaps sadder is that Cherry wants to push toward Gail Dever's world record in hurdling. A (fomer) doper setting a world record...that adds to track's credibility doesn't it?
Cherry's dreams go beyond Beijing. She has her eye on Gail Devers' American record of 12.33, not far off her 12.44 personal record.
"My goal has been to really get close to that," she said. "That's just what's exciting to me is that I know I'm on track to do some big things."