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Marion, Tim link up with disgraced coach

Toronto, Feb. 1 (Reuters): Suspended Canadian coach Charlie Francis has confirmed he is working with triple Olympic champion Marion Jones and 100m world record-holder Tim Montgomery.

But Francis, the mastermind behind Canadian Ben Johnson’s drug-fuelled run for gold at the 1988 Olympics, said in a statement on Friday: “Over the past 15 years I have not encouraged nor condoned the taking of banned performance-enhancing substances by any of the athletes who have consulted me.

“This will continue to be an integral part of my practice in the future.”

Francis said the fact that Jones and Montgomery chose to work with him was evidence enough the two Americans did not use banned substances.

“The professional and personal relationship which has developed amongst Tim, Marion and myself has been most gratifying,” said Francis, who can work with other athletes even though a lifetime ban prevents him from coaching Canada’s national team.

“The fact that Tim and Marion sought me out as their consultant, knowing that they would be subjected to increased public scrutiny as a result, speaks volumes for their personal integrity and human decency.

“Their actions should put to rest any suggestion that they sought my assistance for anything other than the technical training that I could provide,” said Francis.

“To any rational observer, their deliberate choice of me as their consultant should be sufficient evidence that they do not use banned substances, since by their mere association with me they knew that they would be subjected to public scrutiny and unjustified cynicism.

“It is regrettable that outstanding athletes and fine human beings such as Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery are being publicly vilified because of their association with me. I am saddened that Tim and Marion have had to endure not only controversy, but also criticism and erroneous statements regarding our relationship.”

Francis added that Montgomery and Jones had shown what could be achieved without resort to drugs.

“Tim and Marion have proven to me that athletic performances at the very highest level can be achieved without resort to performance-enhancing drugs,” he said. “They have given me faith in the future of the sport.”

Johnson tested positive for steroids following victory in the 1988 Seoul Olympic 100 metres final in world record time.

IAAF secretary Istvan Gyulai cautiously welcomed comments by Francis that he no longer condoned the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes.

“If it is very lyclear putting an end, an irreversible end to his former philosophy or concept about performance-enhancing drugs, if it is a new approach, then I would say I am pleased with it,” Francis said over telephone from Monte Carlo.

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