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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | Inside the Olympics
: The Day in Sydney

We're Still No. 1 When It Comes to Arrogance

September 26, 2000|MIKE PENNER

SYDNEY, Australia — Outside it was raining on Sydney's Olympics. Inside it was raining on Marion Jones' victory parade.

Barely 48 hours after having the world's sporting media on bended knee, genuflecting before the new queen of the 100-meter sprint, Jones had been whisked away to an entirely different world. Here she was, sitting in a conference room of a downtown hotel, seated next to her sobbing husband, listening to a new strain of questioning from many of those same media faces, sharing the same stage with Los Angeles attorney Johnnie Cochran.

Yes, Johnnie Cochran. Clad ever inconspicuously in a neon lime green sports jacket. Just happened to be in the neighborhood, said he was a "friend of the family" lending emotional support during this moment of crisis.

Jones's husband, shotputter C.J. Hunter, was meeting the press for the first time since the news broke of his positive testing for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. The interrogation was pointed, Hunter fought back tears several times and you half-expected Cochran, at any moment, to leap up and ride to the rescue.

There was no nandrolone abuse!

C.J.'s just a big fan of Jamba Juice!

According to international track and field's governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, Hunter failed four tests for nandrolone during the summer. Other athletes zinged for nandrolone--notably, Jamaica's Merlene Ottey and Britain's Linford Christine--have argued, with some success, that small amounts of nandrolone can be found in nutritional supplements and herbal energy drinks. All right. But in a urine sample taken after a meet in Oslo, Hunter's nandrolone level was 1,000 times the acceptable limit.

That's either an awful lot of power-boosted raspberry smoothies, or something fishy has been hiding in the Hunter-Jones medicine cabinet.

Hunter claims he was taking iron supplements.

Jones issued a short statement saying she supports her husband and trusts that he will clear his name as soon as the legal process runs its course.

She also asked for the media to leave the couple alone.

Cochran should advise Jones to stick with higher-percentage propositions. Such as winning five gold medals in Sydney, or long-jumping over the crest of Sydney Harbor Bridge.

The Hunter case is a can of worms that cannot be resealed or tossed in the rubbish, gone and forgotten like yesterday's fish and chips paper. It is a story with legs, one that has cast a pall over the entire track and field competition--and definitely casts Jones' accomplishments in a different light.

All her career, Jones has run on a platform of running fast and running clean--and cannot dig anyone who doesn't. Now, the IAAF reveals that Jones' husband failed four doping tests this summer. Four. And that never popped up during "And how was your day, honey?" conversation at the dinner table?

The questions now have to be asked: What did Marion know, when did she know it and what did she do with that knowledge?

It is a messy story, and already, the seepage has oozed over the ankles of other American athletes competing at Olympic Stadium. Michael Johnson had his post-victory testimonial with the media interrupted by a question about Hunter, and was none too happy about it.

"Right now, I'm just happy with what I've been able to accomplish here," Johnson said, jaw set, smile nonexistent, in classic form. "Call it selfish if you want. I think I should be able to be selfish tonight."

Well, of course.

Why should this night be different than any other for Johnson, who has spent the last decade running for Michael Johnson, Michael Johnson's bank account, Nike, his coach Clyde Hart and the betterment of track and field in the United States--pretty much in that order?

Beside lagging behind on the victory stand--U.S. track athletes have won only four gold medals so far, well behind the 13-gold pace of Atlanta '96--the American track and field team is also losing the culture war. Many Australians have this stereotyped view that Americans are arrogant, self-centered, showboating louts who will do anything it takes to win and are miserable poor sports when they don't.

Sad to say, Americans here running, jumping and throwing have not done much by the way of reputation reclamation.

Arrogant? Self-centered? Why would anyone following the summer exploits of Johnson and Maurice Greene have any reason to believe that?

Showboating louts? You should have heard the hissing and the booing at Olympic Stadium when American 400-meter hurdler James Carter, having pulled away from the rest of his semifinal heat, eased toward the finish, looked smugly back over his shoulder and derisively motioned for the laggards behind him to come on, hurry up, get the lead out.

Australians, for good reason, absolutely abhor this sort of thing. Why, they ask, do Americans indulge in this kind of behavior?

Personally, I blame it all on the 11 o'clock highlights on ESPN's "SportsCenter."

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