Sat, Jul 10, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Steroids cast pall over US Olympic track, field trials

DRUGS OR TALENT Every athlete who does well at the track and field trials in Sacramento knows there will be those who wonder if they are `clean' or not

AP , SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

The US Olympic track and field trials, always a scene of high drama and breathtaking triumph, began yesterday under a steroid-tainted cloud.

Maurice Greene -- the Olympian champion at 100m, four-time world champion and self-proclaimed greatest sprinter ever -- knows the doping scandal is an unavoidable topic, but he hopes performances can still shine through.

Four years ago, Greene felt the intense hype surrounding his 200m showdown with Michael Johnson, an event that fizzled when both runners pulled up with injuries in the final.

This time, an uglier subject is dominating the pre-meet publicity, and every athlete who does well in Sacramento knows there will be those who wonder if they are "clean" or not.

"It's going to be very hard to convince someone that what you're doing is pure because of all this negative talk," Greene said. "I just tell them that I have a God-given talent and I work very hard at what I do."

Marion Jones was to take the track in the 100m preliminaries yesterday after weeks of vehemently denying that she ever used performance-enhancing drugs.

Tim Montgomery, her boyfriend and the father of her child, will run in the men's 100 prelims today. He is one of four athletes in the meet under notice that they face lifetime bans from the sport for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Their cases are unprecedented, because none has tested positive. The allegations stem from circumstantial evidence gathered in the criminal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative. Montgomery's case is made worse by the leaking of his grand jury testimony to the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he is quoted as acknowledging he used performance-enhancing drugs -- something he has publicly denied.

Greene and Montgomery are longtime rivals, the past and present world record-holders. Greene has called Montgomery "the luckiest man in the world" because his two fastest times, including his world record of 9.78 seconds, came with a 2m per second wind, the highest allowable for record purposes.

"Well, with the problems that he's going through," Greene said this week, "I think his luck ran out. I know he's very stressed right now."

Montgomery has only the sixth-fastest time by an American this year -- 10.08. Shawn Crawford is the fastest, with a world-leading 9.88, followed by Greene's 9.93 and John Capel's 9.95. All three of those times came at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, on June 19.

Jones' last race also was at the Pre meet, where she finished fifth in the 100m behind winner Inger Miller. Jones still has the second-fastest time among US women, 11.04 in Kingston, Jamaica, on June 5. Still, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the event -- one of a record five medals she won in Sydney -- is no shoo-in to make the team in the 100m.

Greene said he sees flaws in her technique.

"I don't know if it's because she's had a baby, but her running style has changed," he said. "I think she has a lot more movement than she did before."

Any unnecessary movement slows a sprinter, he said, and off-track distractions do the same.

"If you don't have a clear mind when you're going out on the track, you're not 100 percent focused on what you do," Greene said. "So most likely, you will not run the same type of races because you're not totally tuned in to what you're doing."

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