Tim Montgomery interviewed in jail. ( Sprinter who worked with BALCO )

Tim Montgomery interviewed in jail. ( Sprinter who worked with BALCO )

"The crucial conversation took place at Graham’s house one evening. Graham started telling him about power, about how he was too slight; he was so blatant he started showing Montgomery a video of Ben Johnson to demonstrate his point. “He was saying to me, ‘There’s no telling what you can do when you’re using steroids,’ ” Montgomery says.

It is at this point that most reasonable people would stop to think and to examine their conscience — because this was the moment when Montgomery crossed the line. But, as he explains, conscience did not enter the equation. “I was thinking, ‘This is the green light,’ ” he says. “All I wanted was the big Nike contract, the commercials, I wanted to be the star.”

His next stop was over the Mexico border to follow up on the introduction to Angel Heredia, whom Graham used as the supplier of performance-enhancing drugs to his athletes.

Montgomery claims that he was shown paperwork showing Heredia’s various clients and he asserts that one of the names he saw was Greene.

This allegation has been aired before, by Heredia, although Greene has denied that he ever used drugs. When evidence was published last year of a bank transaction and blood analysis in Greene’s name, Greene said that he disapproved of doping and that everything he bought from Heredia was destined for others in his training group, not himself.

But Montgomery’s attitude, on meeting Heredia, was that he had finally arrived. Was he concerned about getting caught? “No,” he says. “Being suspended for two years didn’t cross my mind. Other people weren’t getting caught. Angel’s father told me, ‘It clears your system in 12 days; all you have to do is hide for 12 days.’

“So for 12 days, we would turn the lights on at the track, train at night and stay in hotels in the day. When I lived with Marion, I got cameras put on the gates so if a tester came, I’d know not to answer the door.”

Real improvement, though, did not come for another year, until the advent of Project World Record. By now, Graham had switched suppliers and was working with Victor Conte, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (Balco) in Burlingame, California. Project World Record was designed specifically to turn Montgomery into the world’s fastest man and it was born in a Balco meeting room with none other than Charlie Francis, the former coach of Ben Johnson, as a specialist consultant.

Once again, this did not trigger Montgomery’s concern but, instead, his ambition. “I knew I was getting the edge,” he says. “I knew we were beating the system. But the system had been beating me. Charlie said to me, ‘Tim, you have the ability to be the world record-holder.’ I don’t think there’s a person in sprinting smarter than Charlie Francis.”

Sure enough, Francis was right. In 2001, Greene just stayed ahead of Montgomery and in 2002, Montgomery finally reeled him in, beating him comprehensively in a grand prix in Brussels. Montgomery says: “Maurice came up to me after that and said, ‘You’re there, huh?’ And I said, ‘It was only a matter of time.’ But after I got fast, Maurice ducked a lot of races. You could see the mojo had changed. You can see in an athlete when you’ve got ’em, when you’ve taken the fight out of them.”

Two weeks after the Brussels meeting, Montgomery ran his 9.78sec in Paris. It was as fast as he would ever get, the height from which he began his long descent.

Two points about Montgomery that accentuate how much talent he had and how much he abused it. One: his world record may have been wiped but he insists he did it clean. The drugs that Conte gave him, he says, gave him terrible stomach cramps so he quit them and, in 2002, started taking clean nutritional supplements instead. Yet he realises few would believe him. “I know my word is like lunchmeat, you can take it or leave it,” he says. Two: because he was more interested in the rewards of winning than winning itself, he will never know quite where his natural talent might have taken him.

“I had all the natural elements to achieve what I wanted, as long as I put in 100 per cent,” he says. “But I never did. Because I wanted to be the person in the nightclub, partying, getting by in life.”

But his life started to crumple after Balco was raided in September 2003. A year later, he was fighting a doping charge and needed to fund growing legal fees. “I had been living beyond my means from the track world anyway,” he says. “I needed money and the only way I knew how to make money was drugs.” In other words, he used one crime to fund his defence against another.

" I don’t think there’s a person in sprinting smarter than Charlie Francis.”