Jones: 'I have betrayed your trust'
Oct. 5: An emotional Marion Jones says, "I have let my country down," after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators when she denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
But Jones vehemently denied all doping allegations, even issuing this emphatic declaration in 2004: “I have never, ever used performance-enhancing drugs.” She also sued BALCO founder Victor Conte after he repeatedly accused Jones of using performance-enhancing drugs and said he watched her inject herself.
That anger and defiance was nowhere to be seen Friday.
Even Conte had sympathy for Jones.
“I don’t feel any sense of vindication,” he said. “All of us have made poor decisions in our lives and suffered the consequences.”
Flanked by her attorneys and with her mother a few feet away, Jones sat perfectly straight as she acknowledged her crimes. Speaking into a microphone, her voice was crystal clear when she admitted lying to a federal investigator in November 2003 when he asked if she had used performance-enhancing drugs.
“I answered that I had not. This was a lie, your honor,” she said.
Jones said she took steroids from September 2000 to July 2001 and said she was told by her then-coach Trevor Graham that she was taking flaxseed oil when it was actually “the clear.” That’s a performance-enhancing drug linked to BALCO, the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports.
“I consumed this substance several times before the Sydney Olympics and continued using it after,” Jones told the judge. “By November 2003, I realized he was giving me performance-enhancing drugs.”
She said she “felt different, trained more intensely” and experienced “faster recovery and better times” while using the substance.
“He told me to put it under my tongue for a few seconds and swallow it,” she said. “He told me not to tell anyone.”
A Sept. 3, 2003, search warrant at BALCO uncovered ledgers, purchases, doping calendars, and various blood-test results connected to Jones and Graham, said Matt Parrella, a federal prosecutor in Northern California.
In the check-fraud scheme, Jones admitted lying about her knowledge of the involvement of Montgomery in a scheme to cash millions of dollars worth of stolen or forged checks. Montgomery; Jones’ longtime agent Charles Wells; and a former coach, Olympian Steve Riddick, have all been convicted in the scam.
“This is a sad day for sport. The only good that can be drawn from today’s revelations is that her decision to finally admit the truth will play we hope, a key part in breaking the back of the BALCO affair,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said. Prosecutors have suggested to Jones that the prison term will be a maximum of six months, although the judge has the discretion to change that. The maximum sentence on each count is five years and a $250,000 fine, for a total of 10 years and $500,000.
In addition to losing her freedom, she is almost certain to lose her medals, too.
The International Olympic Committee opened an investigation into doping allegations against Jones in December 2004, and said Friday it will step up its probe and move quickly to strip her of her medals.
“Her admission is long overdue and underscores the shame and dishonor that are inherent with cheating,” U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth said in a statement. “As further recognition of her complicity in this matter, Ms. Jones should immediately step forward and return the Olympic medals she won while competing in violation of the rules.”
In Jones’ case, that would include the 2000 Olympics, where she won gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 1,600-meter relay and bronze in the long jump and 400-meter relay.
“I am responsible fully for my actions. I have no one to blame but myself for what I’ve done,” she said. “Making the wrong choices and bad decisions can be disastrous.”
Czech Tomas Berdych snapped a run of 11 consecutive defeats by world number one Novak Djokovic to reach the semi-finals of the Rome Masters before Rafa Nadal was stretched to the limit against David Ferrer on Friday.
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