Athletics: Williams to rise above tribulation at US trials

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Lauryn Williams will settle down into her blocks with one clear thought as the US Olympic trials get under way in Sacramento today. "I want to go to Greece," said the 20-year-old University of Miami student, who has already run the second-fastest 100 metres time this year, 10.97sec. "No maybes, ands, ifs or buts about it."

If only life were so simple for the woman who has dominated US sprinting for six years, Marion Jones. The 29-year-old triple Olympic champion takes part under close scrutiny by the US Anti-Doping Agency, and although she has never failed a drug test or been charged with any offence, there remains doubt over whether she will appear in Athens even if she qualifies.

Jones's partner, Tim Montgomery, is one of five athletes present facing doping charges. The others are the 400m runners Michelle Collins and Alvin Harrison, the sprinter Chryste Gaines and the 1500m runner Regina Jacobs.

"We've had trying times as an organisation over the past 25 years," the USA Track & Field chief executive Craig Masback told his board of directors this week. "Newspapers around the world are delivering news of scandal and shame related to some of our athletes and coaches."

Masback blamed the scandal on "a small sub-culture of cheating athletes and coaches," who believe "that using performance-enhancing substances was an acceptable route to success."

The United States will pick its team for next month's Athens Olympics by the traditional method of rewarding the first three home in each event.

Should any of those charged with doping offences make the team, their status will be determined by the outcome of their hearings if they are completed before the Games.

The Olympic champion Maurice Greene will want to show he is still king of the 100m, while veteran hurdlers Gail Devers and Allen Johnson - who managed a world season's best of 13.05sec this week - will take their first steps towards more gold.

Greene, who broke a leg in a motorcycle accident in 2002, will face a pair of former world indoor champions, Shawn Crawford and Justin Gatlin, and world 200m champion John Capel.

Capel, Crawford, Gatlin and Darvis Patton will be the runners to watch in the 200 m. Crawford has the fastest 100m in the world this year of 9.88sec.

The shot-putter Christian Cantwell and 1500m runner Alan Webb are trying to make their first Olympic team. Cantwell's 22.54m is the year's best.

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