Five-time medalist admitted to steroid use last week
Her reputation is gone and now so are Marion Jones’ Olympic medals.
Jones gave back the five medals she won at the Sydney Olympics on Monday and agreed to forfeit all other results dating back to Sept. 1, 2000, further punishment for her admission that she was a drug cheat.
The three gold medals and two bronzes were turned over by her attorneys in Austin, Texas. They are en route to U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs, and the USOC will return them to the International Olympic Committee.
“We’ve done what we can,” said Jim Scherr, the USOC’s chief executive officer. “We caught the person who was not clean. We’ve got the medals in our possession, and we will return them to IOC.”
Fielding a clean team is a priority for a country trying to improve its image in the Olympic movement — not to mention win the 2016 Games — and USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth pledged Monday that the U.S. team at next summer’s Beijing Olympics will be drug-free.
But when American stars like Jones or Athens gold medalist Justin Gatlin get busted, it doesn’t help the cause. Gatlin is facing a ban of up to eight years after testing positive for testosterone and other steroids in April 2006 — one month before tying the then 100-meter world record.
“Even though it is a negative going back, this will be viewed as positive in our commitment to fielding a clean team,” Scherr said of Jones’ punishment.
After long denying she ever had used performance-enhancing drugs, Jones admitted Friday that she’d taken the designer steroid “the clear” from September 2000 to July 2001. “The clear” has been linked to BALCO, the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports.
Jones’ admission came as part of her guilty plea to lying to federal investigators about using steroids. She will be sentenced on Jan. 11, and prosecutors had suggested to Jones the prison term would be a maximum of six months.
It will be up to the IOC to decide what to do with Jones’ medals. She won golds in the 100 meters, 200 meters and the 1,600 relay, and bronzes in the 400 relay and long jump.
Though there is precedent for only punishing one member of a relay team, Scherr and Ueberroth encouraged the other Americans to give back their medals, too.
Jearl Miles-Clark, Monique Hennagan, Tasha Colander-Richardson and Andrea Anderson all won golds as part of the 1,600-meter relay. Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry and Passion Richardson were on the 400-meter relay team.
Both Edwards and Gaines have served doping bans since the 2000 Olympics.
“It’s our opinion when any sporting event is won unfairly, it’s completely tarnished and should be returned. The relay events were won unfairly,” Ueberroth said. “It’s very unfortunate, but your result involved cheating, so the result is unfair to the other athletes of the world.”
The USOC has not talked to the other athletes yet about giving up their medals.
Though Jones announced her retirement after Friday’s court hearing, she accepted a two-year ban Monday and agreed to forfeit any results dating back to Sept. 1, 2000. That includes the two golds (200 and 400 relay) and silver (100) she won at the 2001 championships in Edmonton.
She stands to lose more. Scherr said the USOC plans to go after Jones for prize money it awarded her, about $100,000.
The International Association of Athletics Federations rules also allow for athletes busted for doping to be asked to pay back prize money and appearance fees. British sprinter Dwain Chambers, who admitted using the clear, had to pay back a reported $230,615 before he was allowed to return to competition after a two-year ban.
Jones would have earned millions in prizes, bonuses and fees from meets all over the world, including a share of the $1 million Golden League jackpot in 2001 and 2002.
No one answered the door Monday at Jones’ house in Austin, Texas.
If the IOC does nullify Jones’ results in Sydney, the standings likely will be readjusted, with the second-place finisher moving up to gold, third to silver and fourth to bronze.
Jamaica won silver in the 1,600 relay, and France was fourth in the 400. Pauline Davis-Thompson of the Bahamas was the silver medalist in the 200 meters, and Tatiana Kotova of Russia was fourth in the long jump.
The silver medalist in the 100 meters in Sydney was Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou — at the center of a major doping scandal at the Athens Olympics. She and fellow Greek runner Kostas Kenteris failed to show up for drug tests on the eve of the games, claimed they were injured in a motorcycle accident and eventually pulled out. Both later were suspended for two years.