Under pressure from world track officials to explain their relationship to controversial coach Charlie Francis, Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones met with Francis and their agent, Charles Wells, last night in Raleigh, N.C., to discuss the best course of action, according to sources.
Francis, who lives in Toronto, already had been planning to travel to Raleigh -- the training home of Montgomery and Jones -- to begin training with the two sprinters there, a source said.
Montgomery and Jones, considered the world's fastest man and woman, have been urged by officials from USA Track and Field to sever ties to Francis, who coached Canadian Ben Johnson when he tested positive for anabolic steroids at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. Nike, which sponsors both athletes, also has raised concerns and is believed to wield the most influence.
Meantime, the Canadian judge that led a national inquiry into drug use in sport after Johnson's positive test said in a statement released yesterday by Francis's attorney that Francis should be permitted to work freely with elite track and field athletes.
Francis was banned for life by Athletics Canada after he admitted giving steroids to Johnson. He is not prohibited from working with athletes from other nations.
"Mr. Francis has paid a high penalty with respect to past mistakes," Charles L. Dubin said in the one-page release, supplied by Francis's attorney, Terrence O'Sullivan, of Toronto. "He is a very talented coach and, in my opinion, having regard to the passage of time and the truthful manner in which he assisted my Inquiry, it is appropriate to allow him once again to work with elite track and field athletes."
The statement is dated Dec. 13, 2002 -- the same date Jones announced that she was dumping Trevor Graham, her coach since 1997, and hiring little-known Canadian Derek Hansen. In a separate release by Wells, Jones said she had signed on with Hansen because of his biomechanical expertise. She made no mention of Francis.
Hansen, a former long jumper and triple jumper, is a business associate of Francis who is assisting with a book Francis is writing. Hansen and Francis have been spotted overseeing the training of Jones and Montgomery at York University in Toronto and the University of Hawaii in Manoa.
The two athletes, however, are beginning to understand the commotion their silence on the issue has caused, sources say. Meet directors from the seven-city Golden League, the lucrative summer track circuit in Europe, voiced confusion and dismay about the arrangement last month. International Association of Athletics Federation officials this week publicly demanded that Jones and Montgomery explain their connection to Francis, threatening to send an official to Toronto to speak personally with the pair.