Thousand Oaks' Jones Gets Suspension Lifted

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Marion Jones of Thousand Oaks High, the nation's No. 1-ranked female track and field athlete in three events, had her four-year suspension for failing to appear for a random drug test overturned Monday by USA Track & Field.

"This is a wonderful, talented young lady who unfairly had a cloud hanging over her head," said her attorney, Johnny L. Cochran Jr., after receiving notice that a USATF appeals panel voted, 2-1, in Jones' favor.

"She didn't do anything wrong."

Jones had appealed her suspension, arguing that neither she nor her personal coach at the time, Elliott Mason, had received notification of the test that was scheduled for last Sept. 28. According to USATF rules, an athlete must report for a test within 48 hours of being notified or face an automatic four-year suspension.

In an interview last winter, Jones' mother, Marion Toler, said that someone at L.A. Harbor College, where Mason is a counselor, signed for a letter from USATF that was delivered by Federal Express but did not forward it to the coach.

Jones subsequently was selected by USATF for another random test on Nov. 9 and passed.

Because most high school meets are not sanctioned by USATF, the suspension has not prevented her from participating in track and field during her senior year.

Last Saturday at Cerritos College, two days after a USATF hearing that lasted more than an hour, she won her eighth, ninth and 10th CIF Southern Section individual titles with victories in the 100 meters, 200 and long jump.

Already ranked first in the nation in all three events, Jones, who is bound for the University of North Carolina to compete in basketball and track, improved her best time of the season in the 100 to 11.32 seconds. She continues to lead the 200 at 23.45 and the long jump at 21 feet 7 inches.

Her high school coach, Art Green, said Saturday that Jones planned to compete in the State meet on June 4-5 but had been unable to plan her schedule for the rest of the summer while awaiting resolution of her case.

"Luckily, she has a lot of meets right now to concentrate on," he said. "But (USATF) needs to decide one way or the other whether they're going to lift this huge weight from around her neck."

Times staff writer John Ortega contributed to this story.

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