World's fastest woman 'took drugs at Olympics'

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The Independent Online

A huge shadow was cast over American sport and next month's Olympic Games when the former husband of the world's biggest female track star claimed yesterday that some of her greatest feats in sport had been drug-assisted.

A huge shadow was cast over American sport and next month's Olympic Games when the former husband of the world's biggest female track star claimed yesterday that some of her greatest feats in sport had been drug-assisted.

C J Hunter testified to federal investigators that he had seen the triple Olympic champion Marion Jones injecting herself with a banned drug. He also said that he had injected her himself.

Jones's lawyers rejected the allegations yesterday and said they were motivated by revenge. None the less, they are potentially hugely damaging both to the image of American sport and to the Olympics, which begin in Athens in three weeks.

The claims about Jones emerged as part of an investigation into 27 athletes - among them some of the biggest names in world athletics - who are suspected of using the steroid THG. If the allegations prove true, it could be the most damaging scandal in athletics since the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100m gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

In his testimony to the investigation - leaked to a US newspaper - C J Hunter, whose marriage to Jones ended in acrimony two years ago, claimed that she injected herself with banned drugs during the Sydney Games in 2000 where she won an unprecedented five medals, including three golds.

Hunter, a former world shot-put champion whose career ended in 2000 after a series of positive tests for the banned steroid nandrolone, also told investigators that during the Games he injected drugs into his wife's abdomen because she was too squeamish to do so.

He told officials investigating allegations of doping at California's Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco) that during the Games his wife used human growth hormone, the steroid THG, insulin and the endurance-boosting drug EPO.

Erwin Rogers, a federal agent, said: "Hunter stated that he saw Jones inject herself with EPO ... Jones would inject herself in the front waistline area slightly underneath the skin ... Initially, Hunter injected Jones because Jones did not want to inject herself in this location."

According to the secret documents that have been obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Hunter has told investigators that the syringes were supplied either by the Balco founder, Victor Conte, or by Jones's coach, Trevor Graham, and flushed down the lavatory after use. He also alleged that Jones began suffering from acne as a side-effect of drug abuse and had started using make-up to cover it.

Jones, 28, who won gold in the 100m, 200m and relay in Sydney, has never tested positive and continues to deny using banned substances. She rejected yesterday's claims .

Her lawyer, Joseph Burton, said: "C J Hunter has had an axe to grind ever since Marion ended their marriage. Fortunately, Hunter's efforts to exact his revenge by telling lies to the government are directly contradicted by the statement made to government investigators of Marion's former coach ... that she has never used performance-enhancing drugs."

In his statement, Hunter said he was angry with Jones for the way she portrayed him in her book. Jones wrote that she resented the fact that her husband had never told her about his doping ways.

Although the fresh allegations against Jones are unlikely to prevent her from travelling to Athens, having qualified only for the long-jump, the summer Games has already been undermined by the drugs claims.

The Balco investigation was triggered when the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was contacted by an anonymous athletics coach who claimed that several top athletes were using a banned substance. The same coach then handed over a syringe containing THG, which USADA used to develop an effective test for the substance. Among the high-profile athletes implicated were the 100m world record holder, Tim Montgomery - Jones's current partner and the father of her child - who has been charged by USADA.

The extent of the crisis facing American athletics became clear at the US trials in Sacramento, California, which ended last week. Many of those facing doping bans failed to qualify for the Games. They included Montgomery, Alvin Harrison, the 2000 Olympic 400m silver medallist, last year's number two ranked sprinter, Chryste Gaines, the 2003 world indoor champion, Michelle Collins, and Jones, who failed to make the grade in the sprints but will travel to Athens for the long jump.

All the athletes deny any doping offences.

Last month the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport decided to strip the US 4 x 400 relay of gold won at Sydney after one of its members, Jerome Young, admitted taking steroids in 1999.

The United States government has also become embroiled in the affair after it was offered further disclosures from Mr Conte - avoiding further embarrassment for America in Athens - in return for immunity from imprisonment.

A British official involved in anti-doping said: "The whole affair could end up being the biggest doping story since Ben Johnson.

"We are probably not looking at the same numbers as in the Soviet era but you have to look at the quality - these are some of the fastest people on earth. If it is all true it is also a huge conspiracy because these days it takes a lot of organisation to avoid detection compared to 20 years ago when things were not so sophisticated."

Britain's medal hopes in Athens were also dealt a serious blow when the sprinter Dwain Chambers, the European 100m champion, was banned for two years after testing positive for THG. His coach, Remi Korchemny, had links to Balco.

Anti-doping officials in Britain say they are confident that Chambers was the only British athlete with links to Balco and that anyone taking THG would already have been detected in a series of tests carried out before Sydney.