Jones' lawyers seek testimony of coach

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The Independent Online

If the giant figure of C J Hunter is declining to stand by his former woman, the man emerging as a pivotal figure in the American track-and- field drugs scandal most definitely is.

If the giant figure of C J Hunter is declining to stand by his former woman, the man emerging as a pivotal figure in the American track-and- field drugs scandal most definitely is.

The legal team behind Marion Jones's fight to clear her name in the investigations of the US Anti-Doping Agency called yesterday for Hunter, her one-time husband, to be prosecuted for alleging to Internal Revenue Service officers - in a memo leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday - that Jones had taken a range of performance-enhancing substances. "Since C J Hunter has lied to government officers he also needs to be investigated and prosecuted for lying to federal investigators," Jones's lawyer, Joseph Burton, said.

As the latest potential threat to Jones, who is scheduled to compete at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace on Friday night, taking her place in the US Olympic team was reduced to a matter of dispute between a couple who divorced on less than amicable terms two years ago, Jones's lawyers were keen to grasp the testimony of another man with whom she parted company in 2002.

Trevor Graham was the coach who made Marion the fastest woman in the world. By his own admission to IRS agents, according to another reported memo, the former Jamaican international 400m runner was also the man who made the activities of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco) into a federal investigative issue.

In IRS notes of an interview with Graham, he admitted being responsible for sending a syringe containing the as-yet unknown and undetectable "designer" steroid tetrahydrogestrinone to the US Anti-Doping Agency. Graham told agents he had obtained the sample of what he called "the magic potion" from Hunter, who approached him in the spring of 2003 claiming Balco's owner, Victor Conte, was distributing "a new drug of unusual power".

Hunter, in his interview with the IRS, claimed that Graham had procured drugs - including THG - for use by Jones and that he had carried them in his own luggage to the Sydney Olympics. Graham maintained that Jones had discarded packages sent to her by Balco and said he knew nothing about her and drugs. He said he understood Conte was supplying her merely with nutritional supplements.

"C J Hunter has had an axe to grind since Marion Jones ended their marriage," Burton said. "Fortunately, Hunter's efforts to exact his revenge by telling lies to the government are directly contradicted by statements made to the invest-igations of Marion Jones's former coach, who has supported everything Marion has said all along - that she has never used drugs."

Ironically for Jones and her camp, turning to Graham to strengthen their case has not been helped by the leaking of testimony from Tim Montgomery - Jones's partner and another of Graham's former athletes. He reportedly told a federal grand jury that Graham had furnished his training group with drugs supplied by "a connection" in Laredo, Texas, who obtained them from a horse vet in Mexico.

It was also reportedly noted by IRS agent Jeff Novizky that five athletes coached by Graham had tested positive. Graham maintained that none had received drugs from him and suggested one might have tested positive because he had fallen down hard, causing excessive levels of testosterone to be secreted in his body.

Graham's lawyer, Joseph Zeszotarski, said: "Trevor has done nothing wrong, and the claims of wrongdoing attri-buted to him are false. When all of the facts are presented it will be clear Trevor has never been involved in any way in the distribution of any illicit substance."

Graham said in his interview that when he tried to join Montgomery on a victory lap after the American clocked his 100m world record of 9.78sec in Paris two years ago, the athlete had snapped at him: "Charlie Francis was the one that did it." According to Graham, Montgomery had begun working with Francis, the notorious coach of Ben Johnson, through Conte's influence.

Graham coaches the fastest 100m man in the world this year, Shawn Crawford. Last year Crawford raced a giraffe and a zebra in a "Man versus Beast" contest on Fox Television. He beat the giraffe but lost to the zebra. He likes to call himself "the Cheetah Man" - perhaps not the best choice of nicknames for an American athlete at present.