Clouds of smokeBut, as Rob Longley reports, sprint star Marion Jones has remained out of the doping fire
By ROB LONGLEY, TORONTO SUN
Since she captured three gold medals at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Marion Jones has had all the answers. Unfortunately, the sprinting sensation has been the subject of just as many questions.
Legitimate or not, there's sure to be more before August which will make for a titillating leadup to the Athens Summer Olympics.
It is important to note for the record that Jones has a clean slate. She has never tested positive for a banned drug and is a U.S. Olympian in good standing.
LINKED TO BALCO
But if guilt by association were a crime, the sprinting queen would be in a real mess.
For each new suspicion, the 28-year-old track star has denied allegations -- implied or otherwise -- as profusely and swiftly as she destroys her competition.
The latest bomb to hit came last weekend when two California papers linked Jones to Victor Conte, a kingpin in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal. Conte reportedly told federal agents that he gave performance-enhancing agents to Jones and her husband Tim Montgomery, the men's world record holder over 100 metres.
Jones, through her lawyer, denied the allegation and another report by the New York Times claiming that she sent a cheque worth more than $7,000 to Conte.
Her life, it seems, is a soap opera, one that regularly generates fresh, sensational angles.
As a high school star, Jones received a short suspension for missing a drug test and was defended (successfully) in the matter by high-profile lawyer Johnnie Cochrane.
Life between the 2000 and 2004 Games was sailing along peacefully for Jones and her new beau Montgomery until December, 2002. That's when the Toronto Sun reported that the pair were being coached by Charlie Francis at York University.
While again no crime was committed, the mere link with the guru who was connected to steroid use by disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was met with outrage around the track world.
Before long, it was reported that Jones' primary sponsor, Nike, gave more than a gentle nudge for Jones to sprint away from Francis. She has since moved on to American coach Dan Pfaff, who worked with Donovan Bailey.
"I acknowledge that a number of major scandals, my name has been associated with them," Jones reportedly said recently. "But I don't believe in guilt by association."
It was the same card she played after the Francis debacle and after the cloud that followed her in Sydney.
Jones found herself on the hotseat in the middle of those Games after her then-husband, American shotputter C.J. Hunter, was nailed for a positive test for nandralone.
Innocent until proven guilty, Jones' record remains unblemished.
Her triumphs in Sydney in such glamour events assures that Jones will go to Athens as possibly the most-hyped American athlete.
And you can bet the rest of her story will get as much, if not more, attention.