Sprint rivals see Jones as vulnerable at trials

SACRAMENTO (California): If silence is golden, American women could dominate the Olympic 100m finals because none of the sprinters want to speak about Marion Jones and the drug scandal that has rocked their sport. 

Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Olympics, sped away without comment after strolling to second place in 11.38 seconds in her 100m quarter-final heat here Friday on day one of the United States Olympic Athletics Trials. 

Lauryn Williams, the 20-year-old college champion who led 12 semi-finalists with a time of 11.13, decided against talking after speaking to her coach. 

And Chryste Gaines, the first of six competitors seeking an Athens Olympic berth while fighting doping charges, did not talk to reporters after advancing in 11.39. 

Jones, the American sprint queen who won 100m and 200m gold at Sydney, is being investigated by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for possible drug violations. Jones has denied any wrongdoing. 

But she cannot deny the confidence of her 100m rivals, who see the 100m final as a wide open affair rather than in 2000 when Jones won every heat and made an impressive run to gold. 

“She's not at the point where she was in previous years. In the past couple weeks we haven't seen her top form,” said Inger Miller, who will start next to Jones in a semi-final heat as both seek a spot in the final. 

This year, it's anybody's race to win. I have that sense,” said Miller, who advanced in 11.28. “That makes it exciting.” 

Gaines, Michelle Collins, Calvin and Alvin Harrison, Regina Jacobs and world 100m record-holder Tim Montgomery are appealing drug bans while seeking Athens berths.  

The first Olympic berth at the meet went to Meb Keflezighi, the former Eritrean who won the men's 10,000m in 27:36.49. 

Two-time Olympic medallist and three-time world champion John Godina, second in the world this year, led shot put finalists with 2000 Olympic runner-up Adam Nelson second and Christian Cantwell, who has 2004's world-best effort, third. 

Dwight Phillips, the 2003 world indoor long jump champion who is ranked number one in the world this year, led men's long jump finalists by clearing 8.37m, third-best in the world this year behind two of his own efforts. 

Toby Stevenson, whose 6.00m clearance is this year's world best, and reigning Olympic champion Nick Hysong cleared 5.50m to reach today's men's pole vault final. 

But American record-holder Jeff Hartwig, a 2000 gold medal favourite who failed to clear a height at the Sydney Olympic trials, failed to clear his opening height of 5.50m after taking longer than a minute to make an attempt. 

“Obviously I'm disappointed,” Hartwig said. “I've never had a problem before and I don't think it would have been a problem today if I had gotten my full minute.” – AFP  

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