International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the IOC would not hesitate to ban high-profile athletes from the Athens Summer Games if evidence warranted such action a day after a Bay Area newspaper reported that Tim Montgomery, the world record holder in the 100 meters, received steroids during a visit to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in November 2000 with his former coach Trevor Graham.
Montgomery allegedly was given a supply of the designer steroid THG as part of a fitness and pharmacological plan dubbed "Project World Champion," the San Jose Mercury News reported in yesterday's editions.
Montgomery's attorney, Cristina C. Arguedas, dismissed the report yesterday as nothing more than rumor and innuendo and said if the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency "is going to run a fair process" of prosecuting athletes, "Tim Montgomery will be fine."
USADA officials have declined to comment on the specifics of evidence they possess from a federal raid of BALCO last fall, but they have said they hope to remove athletes who have used drugs from competition before the July 8-18 Olympic trials in track and field.
The newspaper reported that Montgomery received the steroids during a trip with Graham to BALCO that included a meeting with BALCO owner Victor Conte; bodybuilder Milos Sarcev; and Charlie Francis, the coach of Ben Johnson, who was stripped of his 1988 Olympic gold medal after testing positive for steroids.
Conte, who was indicted in February on federal steroid distribution charges, did not respond to an interview request. Sarcev could not be reached. In a statement, Francis acknowledged attending the meeting for the purpose of designing a training regimen for Montgomery, who set the 100-meter world record in the summer of 2001, but said he had no knowledge of an exchange of banned drugs.
"I was not told at that time nor any time subsequent that Mr. Montgomery was taking any banned substances nor do I, to this day, have any knowledge that such was the case," Francis said in the statement.
Rogge told the Associated Press in Nicosia, Cyprus, that drugs were among the IOC's top priorities for the Games, even if it meant the exclusion of well-known athletes.
"The IOC never hesitated to disqualify famous athletes; may I remind you of Ben Johnson?" Rogge said. "We have sent home famous athletes in the last Olympic Games. We will do it in the future if that is needed, there is no doubt about that."
Meantime, the attorneys for Marion Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Summer Games, continued to make a public case for her innocence after learning during a meeting with USADA officials on Monday that she was under investigation. On Tuesday, Jones's attorney Joseph Burton attempted to poke holes in the evidence USADA had produced during the meeting, producing some of it for the Mercury News and the New York Times, both papers reported yesterday.
Burton had previously contested the accuracy and legitimacy of the information, which included negative urine tests and a calendar with the initials "MJ" apparently showing drug use.
Yesterday, a spokesman for Jones claimed USADA was armed with misinformation at the meeting, stating by way of example that one of USADA's attorneys had asked Jones to explain why her times in the 100 meters appeared throughout the calendar. In fact, the times listed -- 9.84 seconds, 9.86 and 9.87 -- would have been impossible for Jones, or any woman, to achieve. Her best time is 10.65; the world record is 10.49. The spokesman also said the calendar, which was littered with letters that might have been references to drugs, documented a season -- 2001 -- in which Jones had no ties to BALCO.
Jones's legal team said her connection to BALCO came entirely through her ex-husband, C.J. Hunter, and her former coach Graham and that it ended when she and Hunter divorced in early 2001.
Jones's representatives also claim she could not have produced several of the urine samples USADA officials attributed to her. The samples were found in a file with Jones's name on it during the raid of BALCO, and all were negative for steroids or other drugs, the representatives say.
Jones had been on flights to and from Sydney on the days two of the samples were allegedly taken, and had severed her relationship with BALCO by the time a March 2001 sample was taken, they said.