The prospect of athletes who doped being caught and then serving time in jail might bring ecstasy to the minds of the most puritanical anti-dopers, but it could just as easily be a nightmare for the one struggling to survive incarceration – and a disincentive to those athletes caught in the web of doping who are desperate for a way out. Punishment is hopefully a deterrent, and to his credit, Montgomery did not choose suicide rather than face his sentence, but given that “he had to fight a pedophile to gain the respect of his fellow inmates,” might not Montgomery emerge as a monster himself?
Perhaps Montgomery was already a sociopath before he got caught. After all, according to The Times, “He says that his conscience was troubled as little by the heroin dealing as it was by being a drugs cheat.” Speculation is easy and doesn’t require accountability, so maybe Montgomery would have become a criminal anyway, were it not for his God-given athletic ability. Maybe there is some cosmic justice in his having “feared for his life every day” while in prison. But maybe there isn’t. Doping is without a question wrong. It is corrosive. It destroys the hope of young athletes, and those professionals who can’t afford the services of a doctor like Michele Ferrari. Tim Montgomery might not be the best example, but should the criminalization of doping also portend the victimization of the offender after he is condemned to prison?
From The Times Online:
“The story behind the fall of Tim Montgomery, the former 100 metres world record-holder who now trains in a pair of tennis shoes on a concrete track in an Alabama prison, is revealed by The Times…
Montgomery is serving two sentences, one for dealing heroin, and is due to remain in jail until January 6, 2016. “I cannot express how bad it is,” he said of his prison life. During time in other prisons, he said, he has feared for his life every day.
Montgomery broke the world 100 metres record on September 14, 2002, and simultaneously revealed his relationship with Marion Jones, the fastest woman of her generation.
The Times was granted unprecedented access inside the federal prison — coincidentally, in Montgomery — and, in his first newspaper interview since he started his sentence 18 months ago, Montgomery reveals how:
• Guiltlessly and willingly he started using performance-enhancing drugs.
• His covetous pursuit of Maurice Greene drove him to the illegal pharmacists.
• He and Jones were daredevil thrill-seekers, so unfazed by their use of steroids that they would keep them side by side next to the vegetables in the kitchen fridge.
• He slipped easily and willingly from taking drugs to selling them.
• In the 18 months he has spent in a number of different prisons around the United States, he has survived the knife crime, the gangs, the fights and the riots.
Montgomery’s talent — his speed — has been his salvation in prison, he said, because it has inspired the respect of the stronger inmates, “the guys who work out”. Other inmates, attracted by his celebrity, have crossed him and, he said, caused him to fight for respect on the prison block. In an extraordinary comparison, he likens the fight for respect inside to the fight for respect on the track.
Montgomery is serving 46 months for cashing counterfeit cheques plus a further five years for the possession and distribution of heroin.
He says that his conscience was troubled as little by the heroin dealing as it was by being a drugs cheat.
So cool was his attitude that when he was shown videotape of Ben Johnson, the most notorious cheat in the history of athletics, he saw it as an advertisement rather than a warning sign. “I would give anything to be the world’s fastest man,” Montgomery said. “I wouldn’t let anything get in my way. But if I’m cold, Marion’s colder. Marion didn’t care about anything.”
The latest news is that his daily training is fuelled by hopes of a comeback in the London 2012 Olympics. His chances rest on a legal appeal that challenges the level of his sentencing. By the London Games, he will be 37.
In his tennis shoes, Montgomery is on a 10.3sec pace for the 100 metres. “Give me a pair of spikes and three months’ proper training and I could probably get down to 10 flat,” he said.”
[Editor’s note: I give credit to Montgomery for creating a dream to focus on while in prison – getting down to “10 flat.” Without something to blind him to the horror of his surroundings, Montgomery might not have lasted this long.]