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
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
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