SYDNEY, Australia - Marion Jones awoke to a public relations nightmare this morning.
A report in today's Sydney Daily Telegraph said Jones' husband, world champion shot-putter C. J. Hunter, withdrew from the Olympics not because of an injury, but because of a positive drug test. Later in the day, track's world governing organization confirmed that Hunter did indeed test positive for a banned substance, apparently in July.
Jones is involved in a much-publicized quest to become the first woman to win five track and field gold medals in one Olympics. One of her television ads also features her husband.
Istvan Gyulai, general secretary of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the track governing body, said Hunter's case is being referred to USA Track and Field, which would say nothing except to confirm the referral.
As for whether the matter taints Jones, Francois Carrard, general director of the International Olympic Committee, said: "Testing is an individual matter. Marion Jones, like all medalists, has been tested, and if she doesn't test positive, we shouldn't confer [or pass blame] from one individual to another."
A woman who answered the phone at Hunter's hotel room refused to comment, telling the Associated Press, "Call his agent."
A message from the AP seeking comment from agent Charles Wells - who earlier had told Reuters that the Daily Telegraph report was nonsense - at the same hotel was not returned.
The Daily Telegraph reported Hunter had tested positive for the steroids nandrolone and testosterone at the Bislett Games in Sweden on July 28, two weeks after Hunter had qualified for his second American Olympic team with a second-place finish at the U.S. trials.
The newspaper said Hunter's positive drug test had a nandrolone reading of 1,000 times the IOC's legal limit and USA Track and Field and the IAAF were both aware of the development.
Nandrolone helps athletes gain strength and muscle bulk by repairing the damage of high-level training and competition. It has been involved in scores of recent doping cases.
Hunter withdrew from the U.S. team, citing Sept. 3 knee surgery. USA Track and Field had faced questions here that it had covered up positive drug tests among American athletes, and a spokesperson for the organization said it has a "long-standing policy of not commenting on doping matters."
IOC drug chief Prince Alexandre de Merode also accused U.S. track and field officials of covering up five positive drug tests before the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He said he didn't recall the names of the athletes, but that some may have won medals during the Games.
Heading into the Sydney Olympics, Jones has courted attention, while her 6-foot-1, 330-pound husband is gruff and distant with the media. He has been one of the world's best shot-putters.
A graduate of Penn State, Hunter is a three-time national champion who finished seventh in the 1996 Olympics. Hunter won the world championship in Spain last year with a heave of 71 feet, 6 inches.
Jones met Hunter when she was a North Carolina basketball player and he was an assistant with the Tar Heels' track and field program. They married and set up house in Apex, N.C., a suburb of Raleigh, where they train.
When his wife went down with an injury in the 200 meters at the world championships, he helped her from the track. They will celebrate their second wedding anniversary on Oct. 3, three days after Jones hopes to win three gold medals in one day and run her total here to five.
"Right now, C. J. is all business about keeping me healthy, keeping me happy," Jones said after she won the 100. "I think you will see more celebration out of him once this four by four is done."
That would be Jones' final event here, the 1,600 relay. Wednesday, Jones will run the first two rounds of the 200, an event in which she is favored, and qualify in the long jump, in which she has struggled with her form. The finals of the 200 will be held Thursday, the long jump final Friday and the 400 and 1,600 relays Saturday.
"What you hope is that she maintains her focus and that she can do her best in what are now trying circumstances," IOC vice president Richard Pound told The Sun.
The IOC toughened its drug screening just last month. Positive drug tests in weightlifting have resulted in bans for two delegations.
"I think it [the testing] has worked very well," Pound said. "There are some people who have been caught. For the first time, we haven't quietly given the replacement medals under the stands. We have a public ceremony. We have exposed people as cheaters who have stolen the competition. I think it's good, and the science will only get better."
Sun staff writer Bill Glauber and wire services contributed to this article.
Keep up with Jones
Marion Jones' quest for five gold medals continues. Here's her schedule in Eastern times (Sydney is 15 hours ahead):
8:15 p.m. tomorrow: 200 meters, round 1 qualifying
3:55 a.m. Wednesday: 200 meters, round 2 qualifying
5:05 a.m. Wednesday: Long jump, qualifying
3 a.m. Thursday: 200 meters, semifinals
4:55 a.m. Thursday: 200, final
4:20 a.m. Friday: Long jump, final
4:40 a.m. Saturday: 400 relay final
6:35 a.m. Saturday: 1,600 relay final
Note: Jones is not required to compete in relay heats.