SYDNEY, Australia - With his Olympic credentials lifted, his reputation in tatters and his wife, Marion Jones, in the midst of track and field's most audacious gold-medal quest, shot-putter C. J. Hunter said today that he did not knowingly take performance-enhancing drugs.
Choked up and tearful, Hunter was responding to reports he has tested positive for steroids.
"I've been through too much in my life to take any chances like this," Hunter said. "I don't know what has happened."
Hunter said the positive drug tests could be the result of tainted dietary supplements.
Hunter's declaration came as a gathering Olympic drug storm ensnared pint-sized, 16-year-old gymnast Andreea Raducan of Romania.
Raducan was stripped of the gold medal she had won in the women's all-around after testing positive for a banned drug, pseudoephedrine, contained in Nurofen pills she took as a cold cure. The Romanian team doctor who prescribed the 82-pound gymnast the medicine pills was banished from the Games and banned from the next two Olympics, in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Athens, Greece, in 2004.
But the drug storm in Sydney is centered on an athlete who isn't even competing, Hunter, whose wife has won the 100-meter gold and is bidding to become the first woman to gain five gold medals in one Games.
At a packed news conference, Hunter appeared with his wife, who issued a statement and then left the room before he began speaking with reporters.
"This has been difficult for C. J. and I," Jones said. "I'm here to show my complete support for my husband. Besides being an athlete like I am, he's my husband. I believe the legal system will do what it has to do to clear his name."
Hunter said: "I'm going to be there every day for my wife."
He sought to defend himself from the doping accusations.
"Nobody on the planet could say that I don't love my wife and I don't love my kids," Hunter said. "I have never in my life, nor would I ever, do anything to jeopardize their opinion of me.
"I've trained my butt off for 10 years to improve 6 1/2 feet. The reason I throw is so that I can travel around the world with my wife for free.
"I'm going to take the information that we have, defend myself vigorously and put together a great team. I'm positive that when everything is done, I'll be exonerated."
That team apparently includes Johnnie Cochran Jr., best-known as the defense attorney for O. J. Simpson, who appeared at the news conference. Cochran helped Jones beat a U.S. Track & Field suspension when she was in high school. Jones had been penalized for missing a drug test that she said she didn't even know had been scheduled.
Hunter qualified for the U.S. team, but withdrew from the Games with a knee injury earlier this month.
Yesterday, international track and field's ruling body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, confirmed that Hunter failed a drug test at the Bislett Games in Norway. He was 1,000 times over the legal limit for nandrolone, a steroid. Today, IOC Medical Commission chairman Prince Alexandre de Merode said Hunter failed three other tests for nandrolone during the summer. He said U.S. and international track officials failed to disclose the results.
"The tests were over a period in June and July," de Merode told reporters. "There were three out-of-competition tests in addition to the Oslo test. And they were nearly all the same level and nearly the same result."
At Hunter's news conference, Victor Conte, a San Francisco-based nutritionist and executive director of Balco labs, said: "It must have been a supplement. This positive is clearly a result of the nutritional supplements he was taking."
Hunter's camp said he was taking an iron supplement that somehow was tainted in the manufacturing process.
Hunter said: "Am I reasonably expected to take every supplement I buy and take it to be tested?"
Johann Olav Koss, an IOC representative on the World Anti-Doping Authority, said U.S. track officials tried to conceal Hunter's failed tests and are to blame for the furor.
Asked how the controversy would affect Jones, Koss said: "I should think this is affecting her a lot to prepare for the rest of the Games, and I think that's unfair for her. But I think the U.S. Track & Field should have released this a long time before this happened so this wouldn't happen now, just during the Games."
Raducan, whose looks and style remind many of Romania's other great gymnastics star, Nadia Comaneci, was the sixth athlete at these Olympics and fourth medal-winner to test positive for a banned substance.
"Any case of doping during the competition leads to invalidation of the result with all its consequences," IOC director general Francois Carrard said. "It's tough. We feel it's tough. But that's what it's all about. We have applied the law, and the medal has to be returned."
Raducan was allowed to keep the gold medal she won in the team competition and the silver she won in the vault.
She was not one of the athletes randomly selected for a drug test after the team competition, Games officials said. But she tested positive after Thursday's all-around and tested negative after Sunday's vault.
Ion Tiriac, president of the Romanian National Olympic Committee, sounded outraged by the action.
"We are going slowly, slowly from ridiculous to grotesque," Tiriac told The Sun.
"Taking two aspirins and calling it positive one day and negative the next is ridiculous."
Raducan will now relinquish the all-around gold to her teammate, Simona Amanar, with another Romanian, Maria Olaru, moving up from bronze to silver. Liu Xuan of China claims the bronze.
Previously, three Bulgarian weightlifters, a hammer thrower from Belarus and a Latvian rower were expelled.