Marion, Tim chase Helsinki berths


CARSON (California): Struggling Marion Jones will try to shrug off a difficult season and qualify for August’s World Championships in Helsinki when the US Athletics Championships begin here today. 

Jones, who won five medals at the Sydney Olympics but qualified for Athens only in the long jump, will skip the long jump at the US meet and focus on a top-three finish in the 100m and 200m that would book a world meet berth. 

Jones, dogged by doping allegations that she has steadfastly denied, has the third-best 100m entry time at 11.04 seconds, trailing Athens Olympics 100m silver medallist Lauryn Williams at 10.96 and Tremedia Brice at 11.00. 

But Jones, 29, has been unable to duplicate her best efforts in recent meets. On June 1 in Milan she was second to Chandra Sturrup of Bahamas in 11.67 and on June 11 she was fourth behind Sturrup in 11.40 at Monterrey, Mexico. 

At 200m, Jones ranks only in a share of 14th at 22.93, well off the top time of Athens Olympic silver medallist Allyson Felix at 22.17. 

Most of Europe’s top meet promoters chose not to invite Jones because of her alleged links to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) doping scandal. 

BALCO founder Victor Conte has said he saw Jones take performance-enhancing substances that were undetectable by tests at the time. Jones has denied the accusation and filed a lawsuit against Conte for harmful false comments. 

“My physical condition is improving all the time and I still feel I can make the (world) trials,” Jones said after her Italy race.  

“There have been some difficult moments, but those close to me know the truth, that I am innocent.” 

The BALCO scandal has also implicated Jones’ boyfriend and former world 100m record holder Tim Montgomery. He has appealed a possible lifetime ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and a ruling is expected in his case next month. 

Montgomery posted a dismal 10.43 finish in the 100m at Monterrey 10 days ago, coming next-to-last. His seeding time of 10.14 ranks 12th among 100m men’s entrants in the US meet. 

Athens Olympic champion Justin Gatlin leads the pack for the US meet at 9.85 with Maurice Green second at 9.87. 

Although he has never tested positive for a banned drug, Montgomery is facing charges based on evidence gathered in the criminal investigation of the BALCO laboratory case. – AFP 

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