May 16, 2008 / 6:19 PM / 12 years ago

Ex-U.S. Olympian Montgomery sentenced to 46 months

WHITE PLAINS, New York (Reuters) - Former U.S. Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery was sentenced to 46 months in prison on Friday for his role in a check fraud scheme, part of a spectacular fall for the onetime world’s fastest man.

Tim Montgomery is pictured looking back at the scoreboard after running in a 100 meter quarterfinal heat at the trials in Sacramento in this July 10, 2004 file photo. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

“I stood at the top of the mountain and heard the cheers from the people,” the former gold medal winner told the judge in seeking leniency. “In jail, my status is gone. I am just as human as everyone else.”

Judge Kenneth Karas imposed the maximum sentence allowed under federal guidelines, holding Montgomery responsible for getting his coach, his agent and the disgraced superstar Marion Jones involved in the scheme, leading to their downfalls.

Jones, once Montgomery’s girlfriend, was sentenced to six months for misleading investigators about the check fraud scheme and for lying about her steroid use in another probe.

She was stripped of her five 2000 Olympic track medals and is in jail.

Montgomery came to Friday’s sentencing hearing already in federal custody on suspicion of conspiracy to possess heroin with intent to distribute in Virginia, a case for which he has yet to be tried.

In 2000, Montgomery won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the United States 4x100-meter relay team in Sydney.

Two years later, he set a 100-meter world record of 9.78 seconds, but the time was erased from the record books after the U.S. antidoping agency determined he received steroids. He was barred from competition in 2005.

Montgomery pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy and two of bank fraud for depositing or trying to deposit three checks worth $775,000 into an account he controlled.

Prosecutors allege that was part a wider scheme involving more than a dozen suspects and $5 million in stolen, altered and counterfeit checks.

“Being a track star does not suddenly somehow disable someone from saying no when approached to take part in a crime,” Judge Karas said.

Among the other defendants are Montgomery’s former track coach, 1976 Olympic gold medalist Steven Riddick, and his former agent, Charles Wells.

Montgomery’s defense lawyer argued his client was just a middle man.

“Just as when he was using performance enhancing drugs, he’s susceptible to bad influence,” Timothy Heaphy told the judge. “Mr. Montgomery, like Ms. Jones, will forever be tarred with the branding of being a criminal.”

Editing by Daniel Trotta and John O'Callaghan

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