Danny Lee Harris, 1984: a American track and field athlete who ran the 400-meter hurdles and won silver medals at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He was the guy who always finished behind Edwin Moses, a track and field phenom, known as the guy who never loses – and he never did; he had a decade-long winning streak of over 100 races, and never lost until 1987 in Madrid, where he was unseated by Harris.
Danny Lee Harris, 2004: arrested in Santa Monica, he’s charged with the kidnap and robbery of a 75 year old woman. He faced life in prison.
Crossing The Line covers the ground between these two formative events, and what led from one to the other. Hint: cocaine.
David Tryhorn’s documentary explores the highs of sports achievements, and the lows, especially comparatively, that come after it. There’s not much that competes with winning a medal for your country, but I suppose cocaine is close. An athlete almost has to have an addictive personality in order to keep that single-minded discipline required for elite training. But what happens when that career is over and the sport just doesn’t consume you the way it used to? There’s a void. Tryhorn uses interviews with Harris’s track and field colleagues and with addictions counselors to give a fuller picture of that post-race deflation effect.
For Harris, the more cocaine he did, the more raced he need to run and to win in order to fund his habit. But running meant exposing himself to drug tests. Eventually he was caught and banned for 4 years, effectively ending his career (at the time, steroid use, an actual performance enhancer, would have only gotten him 2 years). Harris’ downward spiral feels almost inevitable, but Tryhorn is careful to paint a wider picture in which he is only one of many athletes to trace that trajectory. Crossing The Line is a well-made film that shows the flip side to sporting fame and glory.