Williams downplays steroid controversy

Updated: July 10, 2004, 9:00 PM ET
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The men's coach for the U.S. Olympic track and field team says no squad will be more drug-free than the Americans in the Athens Games.

"There's no doubt in my mind there's a cloud" over the sport, George Williams said, "but the true fact is we're going to take the best team, the cleanest team that's going to be in the Olympics because of the cloud. What we hope is that the whole Olympics is as clean as we are."

Williams and U.S. women's coach Sue Humphrey held a sometimes contentious news conference Saturday during the U.S. track and field trials.

Williams referred to the steroid situation as "this small problem."

Both coaches thought coverage of the meet has focused too much on the steroid scandal.

"I feel very sad and disappointed that everybody thinks what maybe six or eight athletes have done, or allegedly done, clouds the whole Olympic trials," Humphrey said. "We have over 10,000 athletes out here and yet the media has chosen to focus on a very few and what they've allegedly done or supposedly done."

One of those few is Michelle Collins, one of the favorite's in the women's 400 meters, who is coached by Johnson. He realizes that puts him in an awkward position.

"Of course it does, come on, you know the media. It has to," Williams said. "I just hate it happens to her. It's all alleged. I wouldn't know."

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has accused Collins, world 100 record holder Tim Montgomery, sprinter Chryste Gaines and 400 runner Alvin Harrison of using performance-enhancing drugs, even though none has tested positive. The USADA is trying to ban all four from the sport for life because of evidence it says it has from the criminal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative.

Montgomery's girlfriend, Marion Jones, also is under investigation but has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Collins used to be coached by Trevor Graham, who also was Jones' and Montgomery's coach. Collins switched to Johnson, who said he had no knowledge if she had ever taken banned substances.

"If I did, somebody would be on me by now," Williams said.

Two other athletes at the trials face suspension for positive drug tests, Regina Jacobs and Harrison's twin brother Calvin.

Humphrey said the emphasis on drugs is not fair to those who are competing well.

"We've got people who have the top times in the world that are not part of those six," she said, "and yet I don't see that being a headline. That is insulting to those athletes and their performances."

Both coaches sidestepped questions about the makeup of the relay pool for the Athens Olympics. In addition to those who qualify in individual events, the coaches add three athletes to both 400 and 1,600 relays.

They were asked repeatedly whether they would bar someone from the relay pool if they remained under accusation of doping offenses. Both coaches said there are a number of criteria, including the athlete's willingness to take part in summer training camps and training meets.

In the end, the coaches decide who makes up the pool and who runs in the races, regardless of the reason.

"It's up to our discretion," Humphrey said.

Both coaches talked about the young, untainted talent at the trials, and said they expected a good medal showing no matter who might be barred from the team. There are young people ready to step up in the events that normally are a U.S. strength, Humphrey said.

"I don't think the sport's in trouble," Williams said. "There are some people in trouble, but the sport's not in trouble. The sport is alive and well. There are still young people who love track and field."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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