Olympic champion Marion regrets links with Francis

BIRMINGHAM: Triple Olympic champion Marion Jones conceded on Wednesday she regretted the way she had handled aspects of her brief association with disgraced Canadian coach Charlie Francis. 

“I think that I learnt a lot from Charlie Francis,” Jones told reporters. “The only regret is the way it was all handled.” 

Jones and her partner Tim Montgomery, the world 100m record holder, attracted a rash of unwelcome publicity when they were coached briefly by Francis at the start of last year. 

Francis was banned for life by Athletics Canada after his protege Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids after winning the 1988 Seoul 100m Olympic final in world record time. 

Jones, who is returning to competition after taking a year off to have a baby, was forced to endure a barrage of questions about doping at an earlier news conference called to promote today’s Birmingham international indoor meeting. She will run in the 60m and take part in an indoor long jump competition for the first time in her career. 

As well as the Francis connection, Jones was formerly married to 1999 world shot put champion C.J. Hunter, who tested positive four times for the anabolic steroid nandrolone before the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He retired in the following year. 

Last November, Jones gave evidence to the San Francisco grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO). 

The lab and its founder Victor Conte had been linked by the US Anti-Doping Agency to the development and distribution of the previously undetectable steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). Conte and three others have since been indicted. 

Five athletes, including Britain’s European 100m champion Dwain Chambers, have tested positive for the designer drug. Chambers was scheduled to appear before a UK Athletics hearing yesterday. 

“I think we have a bit of a shadow hanging over the sport,” Jones said. 

“For years everyone has known that for every sport there are going to be people who cheat. Unfortunately that’s a given in the world of sport. People think that they can get by by doing things they shouldn’t. 

“We are going to have to deal with this now, we are going to have to deal with this in the future. I know that one person isn’t on drugs and that is myself.” 

Today’s competition will be the 28-year-old’s second and final indoor competition of the year after she took 2003 off to have a baby. 

She clocked 7.21sec in winning the 60m at the Millrose Games in New York in her comeback race. 

Jones is not prepared to say whether she will again attempt five gold medals at this year’s Athens Olympics, one more than either Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis. 

“I have said already that I am going to try for my three individual golds (100m, 200m and long jump),” Jones said. “On the relays, if any or both I really have no idea.” 

Jones won the 100m and 200m double in Sydney and finished third in the long jump. She won a gold medal as a member of the 4x400m relay team and a silver in the 4x100. – Reuters 

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