LOS ANGELES - Less than two months before the Summer Olympics, U.S. anti-doping authorities are seeking lifetime bans for four top American sprinters accused of using steroids and other banned substances, the athletes' attorneys and other sources said yesterday.
Tim Montgomery, the world-record holder in the 100-meter dash, was among the athletes who received a formal charge letter from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Also notified were Michelle Collins, Chryste Gaines and Alvin Harrison, all of them Olympic medalists or world champions.
"USADA's leap to judgment on the flimsiest of so-called `evidence' confirms our worst suspicions - that it is resorting to McCarthy-like tactics in its efforts to ruin Tim's reputation," one of Montgomery's lawyers, Howard Jacobs said in a statement.
Through their lawyers, Harrison and Collins also denied wrongdoing; Gaines' attorney could not be reached. Officials with USADA and the U.S. Olympic Committee declined to comment.
The lawyers said they would fight the charges through binding arbitration. No athlete in USADA's four-year history has ever been exonerated in such proceedings.
The games in Athens, Greece, start in 50 days, and the U.S. Olympic track and field trials even sooner - July 9 in Sacramento. Anti-doping officials are seeking an expedited hearing process, but it is unclear whether the cases can be resolved by then. Even if the cases extend into August, international track officials or the International Olympic Committee could ban the athletes from the games.
The crackdown is part of a worldwide movement to force nations to police their own sports programs, a shift away from the historic pattern of athletes being caught by international testers at major competitions.
"We are in a new world order," said Steven Ungerleider, an Oregon researcher and author of a book that detailed doping among East German athletes a generation ago. "The onus and the responsibility have been put on the national Olympic committees."
The U.S. charges stem from evidence uncovered in the federal investigation of a Burlingame-based nutritional supplements company called BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Much of the material was funneled to USADA by the U.S. Senate amid concerns that doping violators could qualify to compete in Athens.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.