Gold Medal Olympic Sprinter on Life After Doping Scandal
Tim Montgomery had one goal in life; to be the fastest man in the world. And he was willing to do whatever it took to get there. “Actually, I would have sold my soul to the devil.”
In his hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina, Tim grew a reputation as the fastest kid in town. In his mind, it was an answer to prayer. “Because I asked God for it,” said Tim. “I asked God to make me fast.”
As a rising track star, Tim was proud when he lettered in track as an eighth grader. But by high school that wasn’t enough. “When I saw myself on the front page, that changed everything for me. It was nothing about the letterman’s jacket no more. It was all about making front page.”
Then in college he set the world’s junior record in the 100 meter with a 9.96. “I had Adidas calling me. I had Nike calling me. I had Asics calling me. I had everyone calling.”
Tim later lost that title on a technicality – the track was three centimeters short. He was upset at first, but there were plenty of agents ready to capitalize on his celebrity. He signed a $250,000 contract with Asics to race overseas. He was living the high life.
“The satisfaction was being able to wake up and go buy what I wanted to buy. But it was over. Then you would be like, ‘I’ve got to find the next race because I’d just bought this $15,000 dollar watch.’” explained Tim.
Tim was competing at the highest level and paid well to do it. He earned a gold medal in 2000 as a member of the 4x100 relay team. But he wanted more. “I wanted to be great. I wanted to be known as the greatest ever.”
To him, that meant earning the title of “Fastest Man in the World.” At the time it belonged to teammate Maurice Green. And Tim would do anything to take it from him – even if he had to cheat to win. Tim said, “I lost sight. If I’m ready to sell my soul to the devil to win, why not take something to win?”
That something was steroids. The only thing holding him back was fear of getting caught. Then he met Victor Conte – who claimed to have drugs that were undetectable. So desperate, Tim convinced himself it was a divine appointment.
“The first thing I said, ‘it’s got to be from God. How is this? I run into a guy who can beat the testers?’” said Tim. “No conscience. I said, ‘everybody’s doing it. I got the undetectables, I’ve been blessed by God, and here we go.’”
In 2002, Tim achieved his goal. He became the Fastest Man in the World.
“I hear this crowd roaring, roaring. I look back and the clock said 9.78.”
But his victory was short lived. Tim said, “And everything went black.”
When Victor Conte had been arrested and Tim was implicated along with former track star Marion Jones, he was served a subpoena to go before a grand jury. “I asked myself, ‘What do they have? I’ve never tested positive. What do they have?’”
They had lab samples from both Tim and Marion. It was enough. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspended Tim from competition for 4 years and stripped all records and awards from 2001 – including his coveted title. Tim said he turned to the one thing he thought could repeal the decision.
“I’ve got money. I bought the best lawyers,” said Tim. “I said, ‘you know what, I ain’t going to God on this one. I’m going to money.’”
But the appeal dragged on for years and he was out of money. He got involved in a counterfeit check ring, and even began dealing heroine. In 2008, he was arrested and sitting in jail. “I just told myself, ‘life is over.’ I was going to get to prison and try to find a way to die.”
Locked up in the Portsmouth, Virginia, jail, Tim said he had no hope until he began to talk to God. “I said, ‘God, I ask for forgiveness. I know I came to You a lot of times. I know I lied to You a lot of times, but on this day right here Lord, I pray that You forgive me.’”
Tim recommitted his life to Jesus Christ. As he read his Bible and prayed, he said his outlook began to change because he let God work in his life. He also began to experience it. “It’s a feeling that changes things inside of you. It’s way beyond the feeling I feel when I am crossing the finish line with my hands up. It’s way beyond the feeling that I feel when I’m on the podium and I’m singing The Star Spangled Banner. It’s way beyond that. It’s a feeling of, ‘I can rest now.’”
Tim served four-and-a-half years in prison and today he’s married to Jamalee, raising a family and training young people in track and field.
“So I came back out here and I said, ‘I’ve got to go see the track.’ And when I came out to the track and when it didn’t make me feel like I use to feel, I said, ‘thank you God. Thank you, God. The only Person who can wipe the taste out of your mouth of lust, of wanting to win, to have things, is God.”