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Sunday, July 25, 2004
AJ: Reform could prevent accidental violations


BIRMINGHAM, England -- Former Olympic champion Allen Johnson believes the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency needs to be reformed so it can help athletes avoid accidentally taking banned substances in supplements.

Johnson, who won gold in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1996 Atlanta Games, criticized USADA last week for the way it was investigating triple Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones.

Fellow American Jones, who has since been accused of using drugs at the 2000 Sydney Games by her ex-husband C.J. Hunter, has adamantly denied ever using banned substances.

"I think USADA is an organization we do need, but at the same time I think there are some changes that can be made to make it better," Johnson told Reuters on Saturday. "There can be more information given out to athletes [such as] what's on the banned list.

"I think fans and a lot of USADA administrative people would be shocked to know how little athletes really know. The interaction between USADA and the athletes is they come and take your urine and they analyze it and that's the interaction.

"USADA says 'Don't take anything,' or they'll say 'Take supplements at your own risk.' Athletes cannot go to USADA and say 'Hey, I have these vitamins here and can you check them out for me to make sure they are not contaminated?' They will not do that. USADA does not want to be responsible for anything except analyzing urine."

"The biggest problem I have with everything is the atmosphere with athletics right now. [It's as if] an athlete is never going to make a mistake [taking supplements]. And if an athlete does make a mistake, really that athlete is telling a lie," said Johnson, who competes in an international meet in Birmingham on Sunday.

Several California newspapers have reported that former shot putter Hunter, who was himself banned for using steroids and who was divorced from Jones in 2002, made his allegations to federal investigators probing the BALCO steroids scandal.

But Johnson said: "These days, you don't know what to believe. I don't know if C.J.'s telling the truth; I don't know if he's lying. The only thing I know is she [Jones] has never failed a test. So if she's never failed a test, what do you do?"

"I think too much attention is being put on it. The scandal with BALCO is a major story, but the sport is going to move on. The people that are being investigated don't have positive tests, so we just have to sit back and see what the investigation shows up.

Athletes cannot go to USADA and say 'Hey, I have these vitamins here and can you check them out for me to make sure they are not contaminated?' They will not do that.
Allen Johnson

"If it turns up nothing, then we move on, but if it turns up that some of the people are doping, then they get punished and we move on."

Jones won the 100 and 200 meters in Sydney as well as a gold in the 4x400-meter relay, winning five medals in all.

She failed to qualify for the sprints at the U.S. trials earlier this month but will compete in the long jump at the Athens Games in August.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that it had obtained investigators' memos containing Hunter's claims, which also said he had injected Jones with banned substances, including designer steroid THG, endurance-boosting EPO and human growth hormone.

According to Hunter's account, Jones got drugs from Victor Conte, owner of BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) and sometimes from her coach, Trevor Graham.

Conte faces charges of distributing drugs to athletes from several sports. BALCO's premises were raided last year after the previously undetectable steroid THG (tetrahydrogestrinone) was linked to the company.

Men's 100 meters world-record holder Tim Montgomery, Jones' partner and the father of her child, has been charged by USADA with a doping offense after the BALCO scandal but has proclaimed his innocence and is taking his case to arbitration.