John McCain has denied Olympic sprint champion Marion Jones' impassioned request to use his Senate committee as a forum to publicly answer questions about possible steroid use that could keep her out of the Summer Games.
On Wednesday, Jones, in a San Francisco news conference, had called for a "public forum that will be open for the entire world to see, hear and evaluate."
Jones suggested that the Senate - because of its visibility and interest in the issue - would be a better place to respond to drug-related allegations than the Colorado-based U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which she called a "secret kangaroo court." USADA investigates steroid use allegations against America's Olympic athletes.
But McCain, chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a letter to Jones' attorney yesterday that his panel was not the proper venue.
"I understand the eagerness of Ms. Jones to have her status determined with respect to her desire to participate in this summer's Olympic Games in Athens," said McCain, whose committee has addressed steroid use in the Olympic Games and in Major League Baseball.
"But her request for a committee hearing ignores USADA's jurisdiction over all U.S. Olympic athlete doping cases," the Arizona Republican said.
McCain said his committee "is neither a court of law nor an arbitration panel."
USADA questioned Jones at its offices two weeks ago, according to her attorney, Joseph M. Burton. She also appeared last year before a federal grand jury investigating the alleged sale of performance-enhancing drugs to athletes by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.
Burton did not return messages yesterday.
In the past few weeks, four elite American track athletes - but not Jones - have been notified of potential BALCO-related drug violations by USADA.
The four - Tim Montgomery, Michelle Collins, Chryste Gaines and Alvin Harrison - are expected to find out within the next week whether a USADA review board believes there is enough evidence to proceed.
USADA wants to resolve the cases before the Summer Games, which begin Aug. 13. The United States must submit its roster by July 21.
USADA defended itself after Jones' news conference this week, saying its process "is grounded in a federal statute and contains all of the safeguards to ensure a fair hearing."
USADA's investigation was aided in April when McCain's panel subpoenaed documents in the federal BALCO probe. The committee then turned the records over to USADA.
McCain said in his letter yesterday that he hoped all members of the American Olympic team "will qualify for such a privilege based solely on their God-given athletic abilities."
Jones said this week that she has "never, ever" used performance-enhancing drugs.