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The Start of Something Big
Tim Layden
October 02, 2000
Marion Jones's drive for five began brilliantly in the 100, then came news that her husband had failed a drug test
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October 02, 2000

The Start Of Something Big

Marion Jones's drive for five began brilliantly in the 100, then came news that her husband had failed a drug test

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Masback's statement came during a hastily called press conference in which he repeatedly refused to confirm that Hunter had tested positive, despite the IAAF's announcement, a reticence that came off as ridiculous, even when Masback cited that Hunter hadn't formally waived his right to confidentiality. It's precisely that type of attitude that angers IOC officials, along with the U.S. athletes' and coaches' habit of pointing fingers at others, as U.S. swimming coach Richard Quick did in Sydney. (Following gold medal swims by the Netherlands' Inge de Bruijn and Pieter van den Hoogenband, Quick said he believed not all the athletes in the Olympic meet were clean, without citing specific swimmers. As to why he felt this way, Quick said it was "intuition.")

"It's like alcoholism," said Pound of USA Track and Field's attitude toward its own drug-testing system. "You have to admit that there's a problem. If you're in a state of denial, it's not going to get dealt with."

Johann Olav Koss, the revered Norwegian former speed skater who won four Olympic gold medals and is an IOC member, is livid about USA Track and Field's procedures. "There are so many runners out there, very good athletes, who are under suspicion," says Koss, "and it's not fair to be labeled as a drug cheat just because the United States is not releasing information. The U.S. has to make public the cases when there are abnormal results." Dissatisfaction with U.S. drug-testing was so rampant in Sydney that there was discussion of sending the U.S. Olympic track and field team home.

Meanwhile, the collateral damage to Olympic track and field was immeasurable and sad, overshadowing breathtaking performances. Jones's run in the women's 100 was one of the most impressive in history and underscored her ability to thrive in an environment charged with pressure. She and Hunter, who have been married 23 months, spent three days in the relative quiet of Melbourne before moving to Sydney on the day of the opening ceremonies. Jones marched with the other U.S. athletes and renewed an old friendship with fellow North Carolina Tar Heel Vince Carter, the Toronto Raptors forward, with whom she played pickup games at Woollen Gym on the Chapel Hill campus.

Hunter and Jones took up residence in a modest apartment in a new seven-story building in Bankstown, a western suburb of Sydney. The building was so recently finished that a dumpster filled with construction materials greeted them each morning when they left for Marion's training. There were bad omens early in their stay: When Jones was presented with her Team USA bag, filled with her uniforms and other clothing, Hunter asked for his. A USA Track and Field official told him that he couldn't have it because he was no longer a member of the team. Jones decided on the spot that she would not attend any U.S. Olympic Committee functions while in Sydney, and her decision set off a flurry of nice-making by USOC officials.

Yet if she was momentarily angry, she was also relaxed and professional in public. At a dinner hosted by Olympic sponsor Panasonic, Jones not only delivered a gracious speech that she didn't expect to have to give but also reemerged from an elevator on her way out and posed for pictures. When the time came to run, she coasted through three preliminary rounds and then toasted the field in the final, which didn't include U.S. trials runner-up Inger Miller, who was out with a hamstring injury. Jones was tested for drugs after her victory and came up negative.

" Marion is just faster than all the other girls," said Ottey. "I wish I were 10 years younger so I could try to chase her, but it's useless now. It's useless for all of us." Runner-up Ekater�ni Thanou of Greece said she ran the race as if Jones weren't in it.

In celebration of her victory, Jones ran to her mother, Marion Toler, with whom she has had a tempestuous—if loving—relationship, and carried not only the U.S. flag but also the flag of Toler's native Belize on her victory lap. It was a sweet moment, flush with reconciliation.

Greene faced relatively tougher competition than Jones, yet was nearly as dominant, running into a headwind to a time of 9.87 seconds, the second fastest in Olympic history. His week was lived more lavishly than Jones's. Greene roomed with his HS International clubmates Miller, Ato Boldon and Jon Drummond in an opulent rented home in Coogee, hard by the beach, west of central Sydney. One day he test-drove a Ferrari for a sponsor, and another day he was linked in a newspaper gossip column to an Australian model, with a chummy picture to support the words. "Nothing to it," Greene said. "I walk out of a movie, somebody says, 'Can I take your picture with this girl?' and—bam!—they take it. Then it's in the paper." The movie, by the way, was Frequency. "A little slow," said Greene. "I was in an action mood."

As the 100 drew nearer, Greene grew tighter. He has won back-to-back world titles, holds the world record (9.79 seconds) and has broken 10 seconds 31 times, more than any other man in history. But these were his first Olympics, and last Friday night, after the quarterfinals, he stayed at the stadium much too long, talking and strutting, keeping up the image of confidence. "Olympic rookie," said Greene's agent, Emanuel Hudson. "He doesn't realize he hasn't won anything yet."

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