Thursday, January 30, 2003

Marion Jones' coach raising concerns

Francis linked to steroid use by Ben Johnson

The Associated Press

LONDON - Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery are under pressure to explain why they're working with Ben Johnson's former coach.

Five-time Olympic medalist Jones and 100-meter record holder Montgomery left coach Trevor Graham last month.

They since have been seen training in Toronto with Charlie Francis, who was Johnson's coach when he failed a drug test and was stripped of his gold medal and world record after winning the 100 at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

USA Track & Field and the International Association of Athletics Federations are demanding an explanation.

"This is about the reputation and image of the sport. This is raising so many eyebrows and causing so much public debate and interest," IAAF general secretary Istvan Gyulai said Wednesday.

"Marion and Tim are idols to many millions of people around the world. The fans deserve some clarification, some explanation. Marion and Tim are high-earning athletes who should feel responsibility for the well-being of the sport."

Francis was banned for life by Canada's track and field federation in 1989. He can't work with members of Canada's national team but can work with other athletes.

Francis testified before a 1989 Canadian commission looking into drug use by athletes that he introduced Johnson to anabolic steroids eight years earlier because of the need to keep up with the competition.

Gyulai said an IAAF committee would meet Friday to consider what action to take, including the possibility of sending someone to speak with Jones and Montgomery.

IAAF president Lamine Diack wants to arrange a meeting with Jones to try to persuade her to stop training with Francis.

"It does not mean that Marion Jones is going to take doping to improve," Diack told The Times of London. "I don't expect that; she is a nice girl. But it's not very good for her image and for the image of our sport."

Gyulai said the IAAF had been unable to contact the sprinters. He said the federation reached their agent, Charles Wells, who promised to issue a statement soon.

Jones was unbeaten last year in finals at 100, 200 and 400 meters. She is divorced from former shot-putter C.J. Hunter, who was suspended and didn't compete at the Sydney Olympics after testing positive for steroids in 2000.

Jones is romantically involved with Montgomery.

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