Jones shakes off drugs cloud in bid for ticket to Athens


SACRAMENTO (California): Marion Jones hopes to shake off the doping controversy which has dogged her for the last three months when she competes in the US Olympic trials here from tomorrow. 

Jones won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x400m relay in Sydney four years ago and bronze in the long jump and 4x100m relay, becoming the first woman to win five athletics medals at a single Olympics. 

She took all of 2003 off to have a baby but since returning to the track has been dragged into the American doping nightmare. 

But she remains confident. “It hasn’t taken away from my preparations,” Jones said. “I started slower than I would like but I’m back on track.” 

Kelli White, who won the 100m and 200m in Jones’ absence at the 2003 World Championships, has since been banned not because she tested positive for the designer steroid THG or the blood-booster EPO, but because the US Anti-Doping Agency had enough other evidence – doping schedules, e-mails detailing her drugs use – to convict her.  

White is the highest-profile athlete to be banned but many believe she is only the tip of what may be a substantial iceberg. 

Other athletes – like world record-holder Tim Montgomery, the father of Jones’ child – could be banned from going to the Olympics even if they have never tested positive. 

Montgomery, Olympic 400m silver medallist Alvin Harrison, former world indoor 200m champion Michelle Collins and former Olympic relay medallist Chrystie Gaines have been charged by USADA with doping offences. 

USADA officials have questioned Jones and several people connected with her, including former coach Trevor Graham, Jones’ former training partner White, plus her ex-husband C.J. Hunter, a shot putter who tested positive before Sydney. 

Jones, who threatened to sue if she was prevented from competing at the trials, was a disappointing fifth in the 100m at last month’s Prefontaine Classic, although her season best of 11.04 to win a Jamaican meet is enough to rank her fifth in the world this year, second-best among Americans. 

As Athens looms, Jones is much more low key about her Olympic quest, aiming only for the long jump and sprints. 

“If things go well, I’ll be in my three events. Beyond that in the relays, I have yet to sit down and discuss that.” – AFP  

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