Jones reaches settlement in defamation suit

SAN FRANCISCO: Renowned sprinter Marion Jones and the reputed head of a sports steroid ring have struck a private deal to settle her defamation lawsuit against him, court records indicated on Tuesday. 

Jones had filed a US$25mil suit against Victor Conte in a San Francisco federal court for his claim that he had supplied the three-time Olympic champion with performance enhancing drugs. 

Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), was convicted of heading a ring that illegally distributed performance enhancing drugs to elite athletes and laundering the proceeds. 

The scandal created by the investigation into BALCO, targeted by the US Anti-Doping Agency as the source of the designer steriod tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), has touched sports ranging from baseball to the Olympic Games. 

Jones has been dogged by the affair, although she has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has faced no charges by anti-doping authorities. 

She filed suit against Conte in December of 2004, after he said on the ABC television programme 20/20 that he had supplied Jones with performance enhancing drugs and seen her use them. 

Jones publicly challenged Conte to take a lie-detector test to support his claim. Conte did not submit to a test, but stood by his remarks. 

Jones's lawsuit charged that Conte's accusations were an attempt to besmirch her reputation and gain favour with prosecutors pursuing the criminal case against him. 

Conte's attorney, James Wagstaffe, did not return calls for comment about the reported settlement inked in a federal courtroom in San Francisco. 

Conte was sentenced to four months in prison under a plea bargain struck with prosecutors who charged he was head of a BALCO ring that supplied athletes with steroids tailored to escape detection in standard testing. 

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