Athletics: Greene objects to Jones absence from 'three-hour Olympics'

The Weltklasse meeting in Zurich, traditionally known as the 'three-hour Olympics' because of its quality and intensity, will tonight offer Olympians travelling on to Athens next week a searching test of their preparations.

Maurice Greene, beaten twice in Europe since arriving to prepare for the Games which start a week today, will face the man who consigned him to defeat at Crystal Palace last week, Jamaica's Asafa Powell, in a 100 metres that contains most of the obvious Olympic contenders other than the man currently leading the world rankings, Shawn Crawford.

But Greene, who appears supremely confident that he is in shape to retain his Olympic 100m title after regaining the form he displayed before breaking his leg in a motorbike accident two years ago, expressed disappointment yesterday on behalf of another prospective Olympian who has been denied a chance to perform in the intense atmosphere of the Letzigrund Stadium, fellow American Marion Jones.

The triple Olympic champion, who has qualified for just one individual event in Athens, the long jump, was told by the Weltklasse organiser, Hansjorg Wirz, last week that neither she nor the former world indoor 200m champion Michelle Collins were welcome at the meeting because they had doping allegations hanging over their heads.

While this is true of Collins, who faces a possible life ban for doping offences, it is not actually true of Jones, who has not been charged with any incursion of the rules, albeit that she is under close scrutiny from federal agents working on the case against the Balco lab in San Francisco which has already left her partner, the world 100m record holder Tim Montgomery, facing a life ban.

Greene believes Jones was harshly treated. "It is sad for our sport," he said. "She is a person who the fans love to see. She doesn't have anything [doping charges] on her and they don't want her here. I think it is a sad situation."

When asked if he would have permitted Jones to compete, Greene responded: "We have to abide by him [Wirz]. That is up to the meet director. That is their business. My business is to come out here, run fast, put on a great show and win, and that is what I plan on doing."

Greene's plans could be disrupted by the presence of Powell and the world champion, Kim Collins, of St Kitt's and Nevis.

Although Powell set an All Comers' record of 9.91sec at Crystal Palace to beat Greene, he still rates himself behind the Olympic champion. "There is a lot of pressure on me with everybody expecting me to win a gold medal in Athens but I just have to stay focused and not get nervous," Powell said. "Friday's race is like a little Olympic final with most of the fastest sprinters running, which will give a good idea of form before Athens. To be honest, I think Maurice Greene and Shawn Crawford are the favourites for the gold medal."

None of Britain's sprinters will be in Switzerland, but Kelly Holmes will be making another 1500m appearance against a field that also includes the British world bronze medallist Hayley Tullett.

Holmes remains uncertain over whether to run the 800m or 1500m in Athens, but tonight's event could be the one which settles the question in her mind.

Meanwhile, five athletes are still in contention for the $1m (£548,000) Golden League jackpot, which is shared among competitors who win each of their events at the six meetings.

Felix Sanchez will seek to extend his three-year unbeaten record in the 400 hurdles, while Sweden's triple jump world champion Christian Olsson, discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna, of Lithuania, women's world high jump champion Hestrie Cloete, of South Africa, and Tonique Williams-Darling, who will run in the 400 metres, are also still in the picture.

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