Warren wrestling with a big mistake

Sunday, January 27, 2008By Jeff Chaney

The Grand Rapids Press Wrestler Joe Warren lived for years at the peak of his sport.
He was a high school state champion at East Kentwood, a college all-American at Michigan and a world amateur champion for the United States.

Just two years ago, he was runner-up for the Sullivan Award, given annually to the nation's top amateur athlete in all sports.

He just missed making the 2004 U.S. Olympic team when he finished second in the Olympic trials, but was considered a leading medal contender for the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Now he has fallen hard.

Last week, the 31-year-old Warren learned he will miss the Olympics after an arbitrator upheld his two-year suspension by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for a second positive test for marijuana at the World Team Trials in Las Vegas held last June.

"I was going though a rough time," said Warren, who now lives and trains in Colorado. "We (he and wife Christy) lost our baby a few weeks before (to a miscarriage) and I was having a hard time sleeping and relaxing. It wasn't used for a competition.

"I've been training my whole life for this (the Olympics). That is why I am so upset. I was dealing with a lot of things at the time, and when I did it, it stayed in my system.
"I think I would have done well at the Olympics. I'm extremely upset that I let my team down. It was a mistake. It's a rule and I broke a rule and I'm dealing with the consequences."

Warren has been mostly silent since the receiving his suspension. He and his wife Christy were off attending the Winter X-Games in Colorado much of this week.

"We have talked with Joe, but Joe hasn't made a statement," said Gary Abbott, communications director for USA Wrestling. "That's up to him. I look forward to reading what you have (in The Press)."

But USA wrestling supports the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and its process to keep Olympic sports clean.

"We adhere to the USADA rules," the organization said in its official statement.

"Historically, USA wrestlers have competed drug-free and within these rules. It is unfortunate when any wrestler is sanctioned for a positive test. It not only affects that athlete personally, but also impacts the entire USA Wrestling program."

Rick Smith, Warren's high school coach at East Kentwood, hopes his former star can bounce back.

"I felt bad for him, and at the same time we are all responsible for the decisions we make," said Smith. "I had a number of emotions I felt when I heard. I felt bad for him, but at the same time you need to be held accountable.

"I will be there for him, I always have been. I think he will get up on his feet and plow ahead and put this behind him."

After leaving the University of Michigan in 2000, Warren began an international career in Greco-Roman that took off from the start.

He was third in the 2003-04 U.S. Nationals, a two-time national champion in 2005 and 2007, three-time U.S. World Team member from 2005-07, ninth at the 2005 World Championships and champion at the 2006 World Championships and Pan Am Games, all at 60KG (132 pounds).

With his wrestling future up in the air, Warren is changing athletic endeavors -- to Ultimate Fighting Championship, a popular form of mixed martial arts.

"It's sad that this country doesn't want me to compete, but I'm a grown man and I will deal with the consequences," Warren said. "My sights right now are in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). I signed a contract with Team Quest MMA (mixed martial arts) fighting group. I've wanted to try mixed martial arts for a long time.

"I was wrestling for the glory. I always wanted to wrestle at the Olympics, and now that is not there, I will move into a professional field."

And there is a bit of brightness in the bleak.

"We are pregnant and are going to have a boy in July," Warren said. "That's the best news I have had all year."

Send e-mail to the author: sports@grpress.com