Athletics: Montgomery comes out fighting against drug slurs

First came the plea to the President. Then came the lie-detector test. Now the conspiracy theory has materialised in the case of the Balco laboratory drugs affair and the race to clear the names of the world's fastest couple in time for the Athens Olympics.

First came the plea to the President. Then came the lie-detector test. Now the conspiracy theory has materialised in the case of the Balco laboratory drugs affair and the race to clear the names of the world's fastest couple in time for the Athens Olympics.

Cristina Aguedas, the lawyer acting on behalf of Tim Montgomery, yesterday suggested that the holder of the men's 100 metres world record could have been implicated in the Balco case because of a grudge held by the laboratory's owner, Victor Conte. Her statement came at the end of a week in which Conte's lawyer made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade US President George Bush to guarantee his client a jail-free sentence in the federal court case against him in return for naming the athletes to whom his company supplied illegal performance enhancing drugs. It was also a week in which Marion Jones, Montgomery's partner and the reigning women's Olympic 100m champion, underwent a private polygraph test in an effort to prove her innocence.

Aguedas announced that she had submitted "a detailed response" to "a number of unfounded allegations" against Montgomery outlined in a letter from the United States Anti-Doping Agency. She said: "Virtually all of the allegations included in USADA's letter come from the files of Victor Conte, an individual who has been indicted on 35 separate counts of felony violations of Federal Law, and who had a well-known and bitter falling-out with Tim around the same time most of these documents were created."

The documents allegedly include a calendar listing initials of athletes and code names of illegal substances. It has been reported by the San Jose Mercury that Balco paperwork also includes a plan, referred to as "Project World Record" and involving Conte and Charlie Francis, the former coach of Ben Johnson, to help Montgomery become the world's fastest man with the use of the then undetectable designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, more commonly known as THG.

Aguedas added: "The calendars characterised by the USADA as evidence are not evidence that Tim took anything. They are not authorised by Tim, nor do they confirm that substances were actually taken on any specific date. At best they are evidence that some other individual, perhaps Conte himself, desired that Tim take certain substances on certain days.

"The fact that USADA only provided two calendars, from three years ago, raises serious issues as to their legitimacy. It refers to meetings that he did not run in and has race times that are clearly not his. Yet it contains the initials TM at the top, evidently having been altered by adding those initials in an attempt to damage Tim's reputation. This calls into doubt the reliability of any of the records found in Conte's file.

"Given the seriousness of these allegations and consequences of USADA's actions, USADA should come forward with irrefutable evidence if it is attempting to suspend an athlete who has never failed a urine test. Not only has it failed to do so but its evidence is largely unrelated to Tim, is lacking in any foundation, is inconsistent, and is inaccurate. Tim Montgomery has done nothing wrong, and we intend to vigorously fight any attempt by USADA or any other sports organisation to deny him the opportunity to fulfil his dreams and participate in the 2004 Olympics."

Jones herself turned on USADA last Wednesday, calling for a public hearing about the anti-doping agency's investigations into her involvement in the affair. "I am not going to engage in USADA's secret kangaroo court," she said. She did, however, subsequently undergo a polygraph test in private, rather than public. According to her lawyer, Joe Burton, Jones was tested by a former FBI agent at Burton's offices and registered no flicker on the machine when answering "no" to two questions: "Did you ever personally use performance-enhancing drugs?" and "Are you lying about any personal use of performance-enhancing drugs?" The saga is set to spill over on to British territory next week, with Jones due to compete in the long jump in the Norwich Union British Grand Prix at Gateshead a week today.

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