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Jones gives back Olympic medals

Times Staff Writer

After admitting last week that she had lied to federal prosecutors about taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs, track star Marion Jones on Monday gave up possession of her five medals from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Jim Scherr, United States Olympic Committee chief executive, said the USOC took possession of Jones’ three gold and two bronze medals at the Austin, Texas, office of her lawyer. Scherr said the medals would be returned to the International Olympic Committee.

Jones, who turns 32 on Friday, was also ordered to begin a two-year suspension. Jones, who may face a prison sentence, said she had unwittingly taken what turned out to be steroids given to her by Trevor Graham, her former coach.

At the Sydney Olympics, Jones won gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters and was part of the gold-medal-winning 1600-meter relay team. She won a bronze medal in the long jump and was part of the bronze-medal-winning 400-meter relay team.

Scherr said that the other American runners in the two relays were also being asked to relinquish their medals.

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Jones, who grew up in Thousand Oaks, will have all her results since Sept. 1, 2000, in Olympics, world and national competitions invalidated, Scherr said.

She will also be asked to give back any prize money that has been awarded to her by the USOC, although USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said that the dollar amount hasn’t been computed yet.

Jones may also be asked to return prize money and bonuses earned at International Assn. of Athletics Federations meets. Those amounts could top $1 million.

Scherr said Monday that Jones had been proven an “unfair” winner at the Sydney Olympics, where she was the athletic and media star.

USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth said the USOC wrote letters of apology to the 205 Olympic committees whose teams participated in the 2000 Games as well as to the Australian Olympic Committee and also to U.S. athletes.

“To the athletes denied the chance to be on the podium or the chance to hear their national anthem or to see their flags, we apologize completely,” Ueberroth said.

The silver medalist in the 100 meters in Sydney was Katerina Thanou of Greece, who has been under a drug cloud since the 2004 Athens Olympics, when she and teammate Kostas Kenteris failed to show for scheduled drug tests shortly before the competition.

The two said they were injured in a motorcycle accident on the way to the test, and both eventually pulled out of the Olympics.

Scherr and Ueberroth each said that it is not the concern of the USOC whether athletes who may benefit from Jones’ confession competed without drug help.

“Obviously we’re concerned about a level playing field all the time,” Ueberroth said. “But we have no jurisdiction and nothing to say about that.”

Jearl Miles-Clark, Monique Hennagan, Tasha Colander-Richardson and Andrea Anderson were part of the gold-medal-winning 1,600-meter relay team and Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry and Passion Richardson joined Jones on the 400-meter team. Edwards and Gaines have served doping bans since 2000.

When Jerome Young was given a lifetime ban in 2004 after a second doping offense, the IAAF recommended that the U.S. 400-meter gold-medal relay team from Sydney be stripped of its gold medals because Young ran in qualifying.

The USOC appealed, and ultimately the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that only Young had to return his medal.

Scherr said that since Young did not compete in the finals, “We did not believe the result in the finals was tainted. Marion did run as part of the teams in the finals so the results are patently unfair.”

He also said he hoped the Jones revelations would help the U.S. in its efforts to stage the 2016 Olympics in Chicago.

“Even though it is a negative going back,” Scherr said, “I think this will be viewed as a positive in our commitment to fielding a clean team.”

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diane.pucin@latimes.com


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