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The fastest couple in the world will have to forego a lot of money.

Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery wont be happy with the doping trainer Charlie Francis

2003-02-01

The announced change of trainers for the track and field dream couple Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery is a catastrophe for the sport. The new man, whom they apparently have wanted for a long while, is Charlie Francis, the man who led the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson to his Olympic victory and world record in the 100 m in Seoul in 1988.

The whole Johnson affair blew up the next day with a positive doping sample, when the Cologne doping expert Manfred Donike for the first time was able to identify the steroid Stanozolo. They were speechless, caught on the wrong foot. Later a "royal commission" in Toronto, a proper court, decided to give the deceptive trainer a life suspension from sport.

There was, however, a loophole that no one had thought of. No one had thought to prohibit Francis from being active in all places on earth. The sprinter couple did not break the law [by having Francis train them] and their manager Charlie Wells said to the British "Times", "Everyone feels great about it.- That great feeling could not have lasted long, however. All those involved must have had the suspicion that an uproar would break out about them once the scandalous news was made public. Why else would they have attempted to use the unknown figure Derek Hansen as a front man"

What intentions brought the couple into the arms of "Charlie, the chemist" It was some time in the summer when Marion Jones announced that she wanted to break the 100m world record set in 1988, the same summer of fraud, by her fellow countrywoman Florence Griffith-Joyner, who died at age 38. Her 10.49 seconds were as far from Jones previous accomplishments as the earth is from the moon. Is it all starting to come together - wasn she suspended as a 16 year old for doping, after which she turned to basketball? The question about the trainer qualities of Francis is still awaiting an answer. Even before the big scandal, he was not capable of bringing athletes even near the world class level without the support of drugs. Strangely enough, Francis regularly publishes articles in the doping journal ?Testosterone Magazine?. He used to brag that all of his secret special knowledge he had gained from his colleagues from East German athletics. He lived from it. The successes of Francis new protégés also lead one to forget. They overflow with charm when they are in the public eye, and when Marion Jones is introduced with other track and field greats, she gets the largest applause from the fascinated crowds. Three Olympic victories and four world championship titles form a spectacular basis. Quickly forgotten is also her short marriage to the world champion shot putter (Seville 1999), C. J. Hunter, a huge man of 140 kg who was excluded from competition shortly before the Games in Sydney in 2000 on four counts of doping.

They separated a year ago, and when on September 14 in Paris, Tim Montgomery matched (of all people) Ben Johnsons time of 9.78 seconds (Seoul) and thus became the new world record holder, they officially announced their new relationship.

Now times have suddenly become more difficult. Even before the first starting shot of the short indoor track season, a strong breeze is blowing in the faces of the fastest couple in the world. As a European event organiser recently reported, their current asking price to appear at a start comes together to $140,000. No one wants to pay it. The press spokesman of the world track and field organisation, Nick Davies, commented that his hands are legally tied, but spoke of an "ethical point of view". It seems that those higher up have at least agreed to withdraw their affection [for the couple].

Four of the six organisers of the Golden League Meetings, the crème de la crème so to say, have already announced that they will be boycotting the couple. They are being a bit hypocritical. When the decision was to be made before the 2001 season whether or not to control the blood doping substance Erythropoietin, EPO, the majority was against it. Only Paris danced out of line and caught the Russian long distance runner Olga Jegorowa. Unfortunately, they only had a blood sample and not a urine sample, as was regulated. In 2002, the EPO control was finally made standard, and in Zurich the Moroccan Brahim Boulami was caught right after his fabulous (and quickly retracted) world record of 7:53:17 for the 3000m hurdles.

How should this proceed? The Golden League does the inviting, it would be hard to sue for the right to start. We can only wait and see whether or not good morals, behaviour and fair play can really keep the prominent, and really, indispensable couple away from the stadiums. The functionaries have a few months to work on an answer.

(c) by Robert Hartmann


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