BIRMINGHAM: Former Olympic champion Allen Johnson believes the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) needs to be reformed so it can help athletes avoid accidentally taking banned substances in supplements.
Johnson, who won gold in the 110m hurdles at the 1996 Atlanta Games, criticised USADA last week for the way it was investigating triple Olympic gold medallist Marion Jones.
Fellow American Jones, who has since been accused of using drugs at the 2000 Sydney Games by her ex-husband C.J. Hunter, has adamantly denied ever using banned substances.
I think USADA is an organisation we do need but at the same time I think there are some changes that can be made to make it better, Johnson told Reuters on Saturday.
There can be more information given out to athletes (like) whats on the banned list.
I think fans and a lot of USADA administrative people would be shocked to know how little athletes really know.
The interaction between USADA and the athletes is they come and take your urine and they analyse it and thats the interaction.
USADA says Dont take anything, or theyll say Take supplements at your own risk.
Athletes cannot go to USADA and say Hey, I have these vitamins here and can you check them out for me to make sure they are not contaminated. They will not do that. USADA does not want to be responsible for anything except analysing urine.
The biggest problem I have with everything is the atmosphere with athletics right now.
(Its as if) an athlete is never going to make a mistake (taking supplements). And if an athlete does make a mistake, really that athlete is telling a lie, said Johnson.
Several California newspapers have reported that former shot putter Hunter, who was himself banned for using steroids and who was divorced from Jones in 2002, made his allegations to federal investigators probing the BALCO steroids scandal.
But Johnson said: These days you dont know what to believe. I dont know if CJs telling the truth, I dont know if hes lying. The only thing I know is she (Jones) has never failed a test. So if shes never failed a test what do you do?
I think too much attention is being put on it. The scandal with BALCO is a major story but the sport is going to move on.
The people that are being investigated dont have positive tests so we just have to sit back and see what the investigation shows up.
If it turns up nothing then we move on but if it turns up that some of the people are doping then they get punished and we move on.
Jones won the 100m and 200m in Sydney as well as a gold in the 4x400m relay, winning five medals in all.
Earlier this month, she failed to qualify for the sprints at the US trials but will compete in the long jump at the Athens Games in August.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that it had obtained investigators memos containing Hunters claims, which also said he had injected Jones with banned substances, including designer steroid THG, endurance-boosting EPO and human growth hormone.
According to Hunters account, Jones got drugs from Victor Conte, owner of BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) and sometimes from her coach, Trevor Graham.
Conte faces charges of distributing drugs to athletes from several sports. BALCOs premises were raided last year after the previously undetectable steroid THG (tetrahydrogestrinone) was linked to the company.
Mens world 100m record holder Tim Montgomery, Jones partner and the father of her child, has been charged by USADA with a doping offence following the BALCO scandal but has proclaimed his innocence and is taking his case to arbitration. Reuters