IOC to probe Jones' alleged doping

Committee will investigate claims by BALCO's Conte


December 08, 2004|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

The anti-doping net that has snared some of baseball's biggest names and imperiled the careers of other athletes appears ready to drop on the one-time queen of track and field.

Marion Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Summer Games, will be investigated by a disciplinary panel, the International Olympic Committee announced yesterday.

On Friday, Victor Conte told ABC's 20/20 that he watched Jones inject herself with performance-enhancing drugs produced at his Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. He said he developed a doping schedule for Jones that involved the human growth hormone, the steroid THG, the endurance-enhancing hormone EPO and insulin.

"The allegations made by Mr. Conte are extremely serious and the IOC is fully committed to bringing to light any elements that will help the truth prevail," the IOC said in a statement. "The Disciplinary Commission will be responsible for conducting an investigation and present a report to the IOC Executive Board, the body which has the authority to take decisions in relation to the Olympic Games."

Conte is one of four men under indictment by a San Francisco grand jury for charges that include steroid distribution and money laundering. They have pleaded not guilty.

Jones is already under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and was one of several athletes - including baseball's Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi - to testify before the grand jury.

Meanwhile, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said it will hear the cases of alleged steroid abuse by U.S. sprinters Tim Montgomery and Chryste Gaines in June and July. If found guilty, they could be banned for life.

Montgomery, 29, the world 100-meter record holder, and Jones are the parents of an 18-month-old son. Gaines, 34, won an Olympic bronze medal with Jones in the 400-meter relay.

The International Association of Athletics Federations has scheduled a suspension hearing for Montgomery next month. If found guilty of doping, he would be barred from competing in this winter's U.S. and European indoor track seasons.

IOC President Jacques Rogge has established a zero-tolerance policy for Olympic athletes. At the 2004 Games, 24 athletes were stripped of their medals - about twice the number at Sydney.

Jones, 29, who participated in Athens but failed to win a medal, has denied using illegal drugs. She has said she will sue Conte for defamation.

Last week, Rogge said it was too early to speculate about stripping Jones of her medals. "I hope the truth will emerge," he said. "We want the truth. We want to know what happened and the more we know, the better."

However, even if she is found guilty, she may be protected by the IOC charter, which has a three-year statute of limitations on any challenges. The Sydney Games concluded more than four years ago.

Thomas Bach, the German lawyer and IOC member who heads the three-member investigative panel, said the statute of limitations shouldn't apply in this case. "I don't think it plays a role," he said in a telephone interview, but he did not expand.

World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound, a senior IOC member, has said Jones should be stripped of her medals if Conte is telling the truth.

Conte claims he worked with Jones from August 2000 to September 2001. A check for $7,350 from a Jones bank account was reportedly written to BALCO one week before the start of the 2000 Olympics. Jones' lawyers deny the check exists and say it was never signed or endorsed by their client.

Jones has refused to explain how she became involved with BALCO and Conte. However, the paths of Conte and Jones first intersected publicly at the Sydney Games.

Days after Jones began her "Drive for Five" gold medals with a win in the 100 meters, the spotlight shifted to news that her then-husband, shot-putter C.J. Hunter, had been suspended after testing positive for steroids.

At a news conference, Jones read a brief statement of support and exited, and Conte was introduced as a member of Hunter's support team. Conte blamed Hunter's positive test results on nutritional supplements that were contaminated with banned substances during production.

Jones went on to win gold medals in the 200 meters and 1,600-meter relay, and added bronze in the long jump and 400-meter relay.

Few at the time accused her of cheating, pointing to the steady, albeit sensational, rise of a woman who had been a sprinting prodigy in Southern California, then led North Carolina to an NCAA championship in women's basketball.

She denied any knowledge of Hunter's steroid use during the Sydney Olympics.

Conte told 20/20 that he watched Jones inject herself in the leg before the 2000 Olympics.

Conte said Jones was tested multiple times during his arrangement with her. But tests used at that time were unable to detect the doping.

Sun staff writer Paul McMullen and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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