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Hunter's positive test hurts Jones

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Latest: Monday September 25, 2000 09:22 AM

  Marion Jones, C.J. Hunter Marion Jones embraces husband C.J. Hunter during a news conference earlier this month. AP

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Marion Jones remains the story of the Sydney Olympics. It's far from the story she wanted to tell.

What was to have been a joyous quest for five Olympic gold medals barely has begun, and now she must deal with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, the ugly underbelly of track and field.

The disclosure that her husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter, tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone, creates a major distraction in a sport where even a little trash-talking can throw a runner off stride.

"I think it's tragic. I think it's very sad," said Kim Batten, the 1996 silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles who was eliminated in Monday night`"s semifinals. "I hope it doesn't affect Marion. It's tough no matter how you look at it for her. I'm sorry for her. It's a major event in her life.`"

This will be the ultimate test for a 24-year-old woman whose charm and poise mask an unmatched self-confidence and drive.

"The challenge that Marion Jones was facing, a real athletic challenge, has only been enhanced by all the developments here thus far," said Craig Masback, chief executive officer of USA Track & Field.

There have been no reports linking Jones to use of banned performance enhancers. Only time will tell if all she accomplishes in Sydney is somehow overshadowed by her husband's doping case.

In the past, about the only negative publicity Jones has dealt with was criticism of her long jump style. Even the International Amateur Athletics Federation, which broke the news of Hunter's test, seemed sorry for the impact it would have on Jones.

"I regret that this news is breaking when Marion Jones is running," said Istvan Gyulai, general secretary of the IAAF. "It's terrible whether it's true or not. It has nothing to do with the Olympics."

Jones had vowed to enjoy this, her first Olympics, as the culmination of a lifelong goal. Nearly two years ago, she publicly set her sights on five golds, something only one Olympic track and field athlete has accomplished. Paavo Nurmi of Finland did it in Paris in 1924.

There was no way of knowing what Jones was thinking. After her blowout victory in the 100 meters Saturday, she planned to relax for a day, then zero in on the long jump and 200. Preliminaries in both events are scheduled for Wednesday, and Jones figures to be competing every day after that through Saturday's finals in the 400- and 1,600-meter relays.

Hunter is a big part of Jones' support group. He was an assistant coach at North Carolina when he met Jones, who was a student there.

Although extremely gruff in public, Hunter is described by Jones as `"a big teddy bear.`"

When Jones won the 100, Hunter was in the media area talking with reporters.

The U.S. Olympic Committee said Hunter, who qualified for the team but pulled out with a knee injury, had retained his athlete's credential "in an oversight."

That credential will be withdrawn on Tuesday, USOC spokesman Mike Moran said, and replaced with support staff credentials and tickets that would allow him to continue to be with Jones in training and at Olympic Stadium.

"We don't want to do anything that will upset Marion's emotional support," Moran said.


 
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