Disgraced sprinter Marion Jones has accepted a two-year ban after admitting to the use of a prohibited substance and has relinquished the five Olympic medals she won at the 2000 Sydney Games, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said on Monday. After years of denial, the American sprinter told a U.S. court on Friday that she had taken the banned substance known as the "clear" from September 2000 through to July 2001 in violation of the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and USADA. Jones, 31, also pleaded guilty to two counts of providing false statements to federal investigators and will be sentenced in January.
Jones's two-year ban began on Monday, the day she accepted the suspension, USADA said.
"The outcome of this story is a valuable reminder that true athletic accomplishment is not obtained through cheating and any medal acquired through doping is only fool's gold," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said in a statement. Jones is also disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to Sept. 1, 2000, and must forfeit all medals, results, points and prizes from that date, the anti-doping agency said. Her lawyer, Henry DeDippo, confirmed she had already returned the five Olympic medals.
Meanwhile, track-and-field's governing body has expressed "disappointed" in Jones' admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs. "If she had trusted to her own natural gifts and allied them to self sacrifice and hard work I sincerely believe that she could have been an honest champion at the Sydney Games," said Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), in a statement. "Now, instead, Marion Jones will be remembered as one of the biggest frauds in sporting history."
Jones, who announced her retirement on Friday, won three gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres and 4x400 metres relay and bronzes in the 4x100 metres relay and long jump at the Sydney Games. "She apologizes to her competitors and hopes the record books will be amended to accurately reflect their achievements," a source close to Jones who did not wish to be identified told Reuters.
According to Department of Justice authorities, when interviewed by federal officials in California Jones denied having taken performance-enhancing drugs. Officials said she made other false statements during their investigation into the activities of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), and to New York federal agents investigating a cheque fraud/money laundering scheme.
Tygart said the efforts of those involved in the investigations was greatly appreciated because of their "steadfast commitment to exposing the full truth of the BALCO doping conspiracy and their willingness to partner with USADA to hold accountable those who cheat their fellow competitors and sports fans".