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Monday, September 25
IOC chief says Hunter failed four drug tests

SYDNEY, Australia -- Choking back tears as he sat beside his wife, gold medalist Marion Jones, shot put world champion C.J. Hunter said Tuesday (Monday night EDT) he can't explain why he flunked four tests for steroid use this summer.

C.J. Hunter tested positive for nandrolone, a precursor to a steroid and a banned substance in competition. Hunter and his wife, Marion Jones, say he did not take nandrolone.

Hunter's nutritionist flatly denied that he took the anabolic steroid nandrolone, which showed up in massive amounts in urine samples taken four separate times, and suggested the positive tests were caused by iron supplements Hunter used.

The nutritionist, Victor Conte, said Jamaican runner Merlene Ottey and retired British runner Linford Christie, who both tested positive, took the same supplement. Neither Conte nor Hunter identified the supplement, and Hunter said Jones did not use it.

Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC's medical commission, said Hunter failed three out-of-competition tests in addition to a test conducted after the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway. All the tests showed Hunter with levels of nandrolone 1,000 times the allowable amount.

Arne Ljungqvist, head of the International Amateur Athletic Federation's medical commission, said in an interview that Hunter tested positive in out-of-competition doping controls in Oslo and Milan, Italy; and an in-competition test at the Grand Prix meet in Zurich, Switzerland.

"This appears to confirm that he has been ingesting a banned substance over a period of time," Ljungqvist said.

Ljungqvist said he believed that Hunter may have been taking 19-norandrostenediol and 19-norandrostenedione, banned steroids which produce nandrolone in the body.

"I believe he could well be one of the cases who has been taking food supplements containing these precursors," he said.

Under IAAF and IOC rules, an athlete is responsible for whatever substance is found in his body, regardless of how it got there.

Jones' pursuit of an unprecedented five golds became more than a series of sprints and a long jump when she was swept up in Hunter's drug case.

At a news conference, Jones kissed her husband in a show of support and asked reporters to leave the couple alone.

"Aside from him being an athlete and me being an athlete, he's my husband and I'm here to show support for him," she said. "I have full and complete respect, and believe the legal system will do what it needs to do to clear his name."

With attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr., nearby, Hunter kept breaking down and fighting back tears as he spoke.

"Nobody on the planet could say that I don't love my wife and I don't love my kids," he began. "I have never in my life, nor would I ever, do anything to jeopardize their opinion of me. I don't know what has happened and I don't know how it has happened. I promise everybody I'm going to find out."

Hunter said Cochran would represent him as he fights the doping charges, but Cochran said he was there as a family friend.

Conte, the nutritionst, claimed "C.J. was not using the anabolic steroid nandrolone. The positive result was the product of the nutritional supplement he was taking."

Jones lined up all smiles for the 100 meters two days earlier, as oblivious to pressure as she was to any threat from her rivals. That was just a race and, as it turned out, not much of one as she blew away the field as calmly as she blew kisses to the crowd.

Now the daunting task the 24-year-old Jones set for herself on the track has turned into a test of all the inner strength she can muster, starting with the 200 heats and long jump qualifying on Wednesday.

"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.

"Marion has done a great job so far in light of the recent situation," Michael Johnson said Monday night after capturing the men's 400 gold. "Hopefully she'll be able to focus on what she's here to do."

It was a sentiment shared by all of Jones' track and field teammates, even those angry about Hunter's alleged steroid use.

"I think it's tragic. I think it's very sad," said Kim Batten, the 1996 silver medalist in the women's 400-meter hurdles. "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."

Australian gold medalist Cathy Freeman thinks Jones will come through just fine.

"Marion, being such a tough-minded person, I'm sure she's totally supportive of C.J. I don't think it's going to affect her on the track," she said.

The 330-pound Hunter, the most prominent of the athletes accused during the games of drug violations, had been among the favorites for a shot put gold medal in Sydney before he withdrew two weeks ago. Reached in his hotel room, he declined to discuss his case or the impact it is having on his wife.

Hunter, who finished second at the U.S. trials in June and at the meet in Oslo, withdrew from the Olympics following surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee. He was credentialed as an athlete while acting as a coach for his wife, but the IOC said that credential was lifted.

At the IOC's request, Hunter would be left without any credential. The USOC originally planned to replace that with a support staff pass and tickets that would still allow him to coach Jones in training and at the stadium.

There have been no reports linking Jones to use of banned performance enhancers.

"This is an individual matter," said Francois Carrard, IOC director general, adding that Jones is not under suspicion. "If she does not test positive, we should not infer (guilt) from one individual to another."

Nandrolone helps athletes gain strength and muscle bulk by repairing the damage of high-level training and competition. It has been involved in hundreds of recent doping cases. Some scientists have speculated that nandrolone may be contained in improperly labeled nutritional supplements that many athletes use.

Ranked No. 1 in the world last year after winning the world championship with a put of 71 feet, 6 inches, Hunter also was the bronze medalist at the 1997 world championships. He is a three-time U.S. champion and the 1995 world indoor silver medalist. He finished seventh at the 1996 Olympics.


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