MEXICAN STANDOFF

THE MARATHON'S NOT OVER YET: MEXICO PRESSURES DENVER TO PAY THE RACE'S WINNERS.

More threatening to Fryer's immediate financial security may be Karen Verkutis, whose Denver company Corporate Images manufactured clothing for the Denver marathon but was left holding a $43,000 bill. Verkutis says she's filed a suit against Fryer.

Gamblin says the city does not intend to put any official pressure on Fryer. He explains that the city had no connection to Denver International Marathon Inc., save the $20,000 licensing fee it collected from Fryer and a contract with Fryer to run the event through 1997. The city pulled out of the deal at the end of last February when it became clear that its off-duty cops were not going to get paid.

Consul General Ffrench sees the city's role in the Denver International Marathon differently. He insists that Webb and the city are at least honor-bound to guarantee the financial commitments of the race. To begin with, he says that City Hall tacitly backed the event when it lent its name to it. "If it wasn't the Denver International Marathon," argues Ffrench, "nobody would have come."

In addition, Ffrench points to an agreement both he and Webb signed last year agreeing to promote cooperation between the Mexico City International Marathon and DIM. The agreement started out well: Organizers for the two events paid expenses for the exchange of elite runners to each race. This summer, however, when DIM's Mexican winners--both the men's and women's open divisions were won by runners from Mexico--had yet to see their checks, officials of the Mexico City event asked Ffrench to intervene.

Ffrench says the missing prize money is more than just a matter of international pride. The women's open division was won by Emma Cabrera. "After she won the race, Emma began construction of a home in Tlaxcala for herself and her parents, trusting that she'd get her prize," says Ffrench. "But she's had to suspend construction of her house because she doesn't have the money."

Most local race organizers don't take the Mexican Athletic Federation's request for an International Amateur Athletic Federation boycott seriously. Creigh Kelley, president of BKB Ltd., a local athletic-event organizing company, says that for starters, the IAAF--a confederation of national athletic federations--has no actual power to enforce such an action. In addition, he predicts that it is unlikely the IAAF will choose to get involved in what is a relatively small-potatoes dispute.

That doesn't mean a boycott couldn't happen. Fuller says the Mexican Athletic Federation, which wields strict authority over its country's athletes, could enforce a boycott by Mexican runners if it chose to do so. Although Colorado does not host many major prize-money races--the Bolder Boulder may be the only one--"it would be embarrassing, especially for such a sports-minded state, to be boycotted," she says.

That fear--and the bad case of public-relations shinsplints Fryer and DIM have given the state's running community--has prompted a handful of former DIM organizers to take matters into their own hands. On October 30 Denver will host a half-marathon organized by Fuller, Kelley and the Rocky Mountain Road Runners. Five dollars from each entry fee is to go toward a fund to pay the DIM winners their prize money. Kelley says he hopes to attract more than 1,000 runners.

Race organizers make it clear, however, that their efforts do not let Fryer off the hook. A disclaimer at the bottom of the race entry form states, "Funds raised from this event in no way exempt Denver International Marathon Inc. from its obligation to pay the prize money owed its winners.

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