The disgraced American sprinter Tim Montgomery retired yesterday rather than wait out a two-year suspension and return under a cloud of suspicion. "I don't want to be looked on as a cheat," the former 100 metres world record holder said.
Although he did not test positive for drugs, Montgomery was banned for doping based on evidence gathered in the criminal investigation of Balco, a San Francisco-area laboratory that served many high-profile athletes. "It's like getting a whipping for something you know you didn't do," Montgomery said.
The 30-year-old maintains he never knowingly took steroids or any other banned substances, and worries about his legacy.
"That's the main concern because I don't know what to tell my kids," he said. "I don't know what to tell my mother and father, even though they say they love me and don't worry about it."
Montgomery said he and three-time Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones have split, up although they remain in regular contact. They have a two-year-old son, Monty.
The US Anti-Doping Agency sought a four-year ban, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport cut the time in half in a ruling issued on Tuesday.
The punishment relied heavily on the testimony of fellow sprinter Kelli White, who accepted a two-year ban and agreed to co-operate with investigators. "I don't even know Kelli White," Montgomery said, "so why would I tell her anything?"
All of Montgomery's performances from 31 March 2001 onwards were wiped off the books, including the world record of 9.78 seconds he set in Paris in September 2002. Asafa Powell of Jamaica broke that record with 9.77 in Athens in June.
Montgomery said the Balco founder Victor Conte had served as his nutritionist from December 2000 to June 2001 and had told him that all of the substances he was providing were legal.
"Victor wouldn't be Victor if he told you what was in it," Montgomery said. "He assured me no steroid was involved." Montgomery conceded that Conte could have supplied him with banned substances without his knowledge. "But I never tested positive," he said.
Conte, serving a four-month prison term as part of a plea bargain, has admitted distributing the steroid THG, which at the time could not be detected in tests. That changed when Trevor Graham, former coach for Montgomery and Jones, sent a vial containing THG to Usada that tipped authorities to what some athletes were using.
Montgomery said that he had "never heard of THG" until the substance became news, but acknowledged that he had associated with a bad crowd. "That's why I'm accepting what happened to me," he said. "My mother always told me, 'Watch the company you keep'." But because his world record run came long after he split with Conte, he considers it legitimate. "Mentally, they can't take that away from me," he said.
Jones has never tested positive for improper drugs and, unlike Montgomery, faced no accusations from the USADA. But because of allegations from Conte and ex-husband CJ Hunter, she has been dogged by suspicion wherever she raced.
Jones, who won an unprecedented five track medals at the Sydney Olympics, withdrew from the US championships last summer, picking up her warm-up kit and walking away from the 100m heat blocks. Later, her agent cited an injury. She has not raced since.
"She wants to go out and race to prove herself and that's going to be tough," Montgomery said.