Report: Jones used steroids for two years before 2000 Games
ESPN.com news services
Marion Jones admitted using steroids before the 2000 Olympics in a recent letter to close family and friends and is expected to enter a guilty plea in connection with her steroid use in federal court on Friday, according to media reports.
The Washington Post first reported Thursday that in her letter, Jones, a triple gold medalist in Sydney who repeatedly denied doping allegations for years, said she took "the clear" for two years, beginning in 1999, and that she got it from former coach Trevor Graham.
"I want to apologize for all of this," the Post reported Jones saying in her letter, quoting a person who received a copy and read it to the paper. "I am sorry for disappointing you all in so many ways."
Jones is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., on Friday to plead guilty. The New York Times reported that according to two lawyers connected with the case, Jones is expected to plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal agents about her use of performance-enhancing drugs and one count of making false statements to federal agents in connection with a separate check fraud case.
In her letter, Jones said Graham told her "the clear" was flaxseed oil. "The clear" is a performance-enhancing drug linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports.
Jones had steadfastly denied she ever took any kind of performance-enhancing drugs.
Jones said in her letter that she faced up to six months in jail and would be sentenced in three months, according to the newspaper.
"Red flags should have been raised when [Graham] told me not to tell anyone," the Post reported, quoting the letter.Medals in Jeopardy
The statute of limitations on doping cases is generally eight years, which would put Marion Jones' five medals (three golds and two bronzes) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in jeopardy. She could also lose medals from the World Championships in 2001.
If Jones is stripped of her 2004 Olympic medals (the U.S. Olympic Committee declined to comment on whether Jones would lose her medals until legal proceedings are completed), Greece's Ekaterini Thanou will move up to the gold medal spot in the 100 meters, followed by Tanya Lawrence and Merlene Ottey of Jamaica.
Thanou was one of two Greek sprinters accused of missing a doping test and staging a motorcycle accident to avoid being tested on the night of the 2004 Athens Olympics opening ceremonies. In December 2004, Thanou and Costas Kenderis were banned for two years. In September, a Greek court postponed a perjury trial for Thanou and Kenderis until next June.
In the 200, Pauline Davis-Thompson of the Bahamas would get the gold, followed by Susanthika Jayasinghe of Sri Lanka and Beverly McDonald of Jamaica. Jamaica, Russia and Nigeria would be the medalists in the women's 4x400 relay.
Two athletes would be awarded bronze medals in place of Jones: Tatiana Kotova of Russia in the long jump and France in the 4x100 relay.
Jones didn't win a medal in the 2004 Athens Games. She was fifth in the long jump, while the U.S. 4x100 relay team dropped the baton and was disqualified.
Ironically, Jones already lost a medal in the 2001 World Championships to doping charges against one of her teammates. She was on the team of Kelli White, Chryste Gaines and Inger Miller that won the gold, but White admitted to doping in 2004 and was stripped of her medals. Jones was second in the 100 in the 2001 Worlds; Thanou was third. She won the 200, followed by Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas and LaTasha Jenkins of the United States.
Jones did not medal in the 2003 or 2005 World Championships.
No one answered the door at Jones' Austin, Texas, home Thursday night, and a message left by the AP for a phone number registered to her husband, Obadele Thompson, was not immediately returned.
The admission could cost Jones the five medals she won at the Sydney Olympics. Though she fell short of her goal of winning five gold medals, she came away with three and two bronzes and was one of the Games' biggest stars.
But her career has been tarnished by doping allegations since then.
In December 2004, the International Olympic Committee opened an investigation into doping allegations against Jones.
"Progress to date has been slow due to the difficulty of gathering findings," IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said. "The information that Marion Jones might provide later on [Friday] may prove to be key in moving this case forward."
Under statute of limitations rules, the IOC and other sports bodies can go back eight years to strip medals and nullify results. In Jones' case, that would include the Sydney Games, 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.
In addition to any jail term, Jones could face a long competition ban from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The International Association of Athletics Federations said it was waiting for official notification from USADA setting out the details of Jones' reported admission.
If she admits to having been on drugs during a specific period, the IAAF could strip Jones of all her medals and results from the world championships and other events from that time. She won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 1999 and 2001 worlds.
"Our rules are clear if she confesses," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said.
"It's the destruction of a heroine of the day," Dick Pound, the chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, told the Times. "It's sad at one level, but it's still tawdry cheating at another level."
Victor Conte, former head of BALCO, repeatedly has accused Jones of doping.
Speaking to ESPN.com's Mike Fish on Thursday, Conte reiterated his claim that Jones cheated her way to Olympic Games success by using the oil known as "the clear" and arthritis balm commonly called "the cream."
"What I said in December of 2004 is that Marion Jones had used the cream and the clear -- that was a true statement," he said. "I'm here today saying the same thing again -- that before during and after the Olympic Games in 2000 that Marion Jones used [performance-enhancing drugs]."
Jones sued Conte in 2004 for $25 million after he told ABC's "20/20" and ESPN the Magazine that the sprinter used designer steroids, human growth hormone and other illegal performance enhancers before, during and after the 2000 Games.
Conte said he taught Jones how to inject HGH during a track meet in 2001. He said he also held conference calls with Jones and Graham where the three of them discussed Jones' "doping" regimen.
In her defamation lawsuit, Jones said she never took banned performance-enhancing drugs and passed more than 160 separate drug tests, including five different drug tests at the 2000 Olympics.
Jones and Conte settled the lawsuit in 2005 for an undisclosed amount.
Jones was one of several athletes, including home run king Barry Bonds, New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi and Detroit Tigers outfielder Gary Sheffield, to be linked to BALCO and were among more than two dozen athletes who testified before a federal grand jury in 2003.
According to grand jury transcripts obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds said he thought two substances given to him by trainer Greg Anderson were flaxseed oil and an arthritic balm. Authorities suspect those items were actually BALCO-linked "the clear" and "the cream."
In her letter, Jones said she didn't realize she'd used performance-enhancing drugs until she stopped training with Graham at the end of 2002. She said she lied when federal agents questioned her in 2003, panicking when they presented her with a sample of "the clear," which she recognized as the substance Graham had given her.
"It's funky, because you wanted to believe she was clean," said Jon Drummond, a gold medalist in the 400 relay in Sydney. "It's like that old saying, 'Cheaters never win.' So no matter how glorious or glamorous things look, you'll get caught and pay a price for it.
"It caught me by total surprise," he added. "It's a shock. I thought it was a closed case. It doesn't help track and field at all, except maybe by letting the world know, people always get to the bottom of things. We shouldn't be afraid of the truth, but it's sad it came to this."
Jones' career has been tarnished the last several years by doping allegations against her. In August 2006, a urine sample tested positive for EPO, but Jones was cleared when a backup sample tested negative.
She also was among the athletes who testified before a BALCO grand jury in 2003. Her former boyfriend, Tim Montgomery, also testified, and was given a two-year ban for doping in late 2005. Michelle Collins and Justin Gatlin, who also trained with Graham, were banned for doping violations, too.
Graham has a Nov. 26 trial date after being indicted in the BALCO case last November on three counts of lying to federal agents. Graham, who has pleaded not guilty, helped launch the government's steroid probe in 2003 when he mailed a vial of "the clear" -- previously undetectable -- to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
A woman who answered the phone at Graham's home in Raleigh, N.C., declined to identify herself, but said Graham was not home before refusing to answer any other questions. There was no answer at the door of Graham's north Raleigh home.
USA Track & Field was not aware of Jones' letter nor any pending legal action, CEO Craig Masback said.
"Anything that exposes the truth about drug use in sport is good for ensuring the integrity of sport," Masback said. "Any use of performance-enhancing substances is a tragedy for the athlete, their teammates, friends, family and the sport."
Darryl Seibel, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, declined comment on whether Jones would lose her medals until legal proceedings are completed.
"If these reports are true," Seibel said, "it is an admission of responsibility from an athlete who owed her sport and the Olympic movement much better."
Seibel added that "our position on doping is unequivocal. Doping is cheating, and under no circumstance will it be tolerated. If an athlete cheats, they deserve to pay the price for their action."
The Post also reported that, in her letter, Jones said she lied about a $25,000 check given to her by Montgomery, who pleaded guilty in New York in April as part of a criminal scheme to cash millions of dollars worth of stolen or forged checks. He has yet to be sentenced.
Wells, Jones' longtime agent, and Olympian Steve Riddick, another of Jones' former coaches, also were convicted in the scam.
Bank records indicated Jones had received a $25,000 check from one of the alleged conspirators -- Nathaniel Alexander, who shared office space with Riddick and also was convicted. The check never cleared, according to records, and Jones was never charged.
"Once again, I panicked," the Post reported, quoting Jones' letter. "I did not want my name associated with this mess. I wanted to stay as far away as possible."
In her prime, Jones was one of track's first female millionaires, typically earning between $70,000 and $80,000 a race, plus at least another $1 million from race bonuses and endorsement deals.
In 2000-01, she competed in 21 international events, including the Sydney Olympics, where she won five medals -- three gold.
A lawyer familiar with the case told the New York Daily News that once Jones' plea is official, prosecutors will turn their attention back to Bonds. The grand jury investigating him for perjury and tax evasion was extended until January but is not believed to have met since its term was extended.
"He's next," the lawyer said, according to the Daily News.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Mike Fish was used in this report.