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Brian Cazeneuve
July 03, 2006
Super Marion With her first U.S. sprint title in four years, Marion Jones took strides toward rehabilitating her stained reputation
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July 03, 2006

Olympic Sports

Super Marion With her first U.S. sprint title in four years, Marion Jones took strides toward rehabilitating her stained reputation

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As Marion Jones entered the blocks for the 100-meter final at the USA Championships in Indianapolis last Friday evening, an interested spectator watched from the stands. "Need to see how she looks," said Maurice Greene, who, like Jones, won a gold medal in the 100 at the 2000 Olympics. Never known for having great starts, Jones exploded off the blocks. "Woo, did you see that start?" said Greene. "Nothing's stopping her."

Nothing did. Jones led by a half-stride at 60 meters, then held off Torri Edwards, the 2003 world champ, and Lauryn Williams, the '05 world champ. In the day's third sprint--rain had canceled Thursday's heats-- Jones crossed the line in 11.10 seconds and calmly raised her hand at the finish. Williams and Edwards were each .07 off the pace.

"Is she back?" Greene was asked by his Olympic sprint teammate Jon Drummond. Greene merely nodded toward Jones, fingered the three chains around his neck, including one with a silver embossed #1, and said, "Gettin' some."

Medals, though, are now an afterthought for Jones, especially in a year that features neither an Olympics nor a world championships. At 30, six years removed from her five-medal performance in Sydney, she is running to rehabilitate a body rusted by inactivity and a reputation eroded by scandal. Her aim is to again be No. 1 in the world, and she says, "I think my motivation is at a level I haven't seen since Sydney."

Although she has never tested positive for drugs, Jones was accused in 2004 of using steroids by her ex-husband, former world champion shot putter C.J. Hunter, and BALCO founder Victor Conte. Tim Montgomery, the father of Jones's three-year-old son, Monty, retired from the sport last year after being stripped of his world record in the 100 meters and banned for two years based on evidence from the BALCO investigations. Those investigations had begun in '03 after Trevor Graham, a coach Jones had recently dismissed, gave the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency a syringe containing the designer steroid THG, which had escaped detection in drug tests.

The win in Indianapolis marked Jones's fifth national title in the 100 but her first since 2002. She skipped '03 to give birth to Monty, finished fourth at the Olympic trials in '04--and failed to medal in Athens--and ended her '05 season after European promoters refused to invite her to meets because of the drug accusations. The freeze-out ended two months ago when Jones raced in the Netherlands, winning in 11.16 seconds. Twice this year she's run a decent 11.06 into a headwind and hopes to run in European meets this summer.

Still, Jones, who was once featured in ad campaigns for Nike, Panasonic and American Express, remains without a sponsor and ran in Indianapolis in a logo-free outfit. Privately, some U.S. track officials wish Jones would stay away. ("She's done enough damage," said one official recently.) The meet program at Indianapolis mentioned Jones in passing; the cover featured Justin Gatlin, the sprinter who in the last two years has won Olympic and world titles, tied the 100-meter world record at 9.77 seconds and won over fans by being accessible and humble. It is ironic that Gatlin, unlike Jones, has had a positive drug test, for an amphetamine in 2001--the result, he says, of medication he had taken to treat attention deficit disorder. He got a two-year suspension, which was later cut in half.

Gatlin won the men's 100 in Indianapolis last Friday and later strolled under the Carroll Stadium stands signing autographs, determined to be "the people's champion," as he puts it. Of his interactions with the crowd, he says, "Those are the things we want track fans to remember."

Jones, meanwhile, has a lot that she wants to make fans forget.

SANTA CLARA SWIM

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