- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO — Olympic sprinter Marion Jones yesterday demanded a public hearing in her campaign to clear her name and prevent drug charges from keeping her out of the Athens Games.

“I am not going to engage in the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s secret kangaroo court. I will answer questions in a public forum that will be open for the entire world to see, hear and evaluate,” she declared at a press conference.

The USADA is investigating Jones and other athletes based on documents from a grand jury investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which is at the center of a steroid scandal. Jones was one of several dozen athletes who testified last fall before the grand jury that ultimately indicted four men on charges of distributing steroids to top athletes.

None of the athletes has failed a drug test. But the USADA has said it can ban athletes if there is other sufficient evidence.

“I have never, ever used performance enhancing drugs,” said Jones, who won an unprecedented five track medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. “I have accomplished what I have accomplished because of my God-given abilities and hard work.”

Less than two months remain before the Athens Games, and Jones said the investigation has been a “constant distraction” as she tries to make the U.S. Olympic team.

“If they’re going to try to ban an athlete, then make it public,” she said. “That’s all I’m asking for.”

The doping agency, however, said it would not provide special treatment for Jones by holding a hearing before possible arbitration.

“If Ms. Jones wants the truth to come out, then we share that goal,” said Travis Tygart, USADA’s director of legal affairs. “No athlete who has not engaged in doping behavior has any reason to fear, or otherwise avoid, the USADA process. No athlete is entitled to preferred treatment or will be allowed to circumvent that process.”

Under federal law, USADA’s process calls for a possible doping violation to be heard by an independent panel of arbitrators. An athlete can appeal the arbitrators’ ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Jones met with USADA officials last month and received a letter from the agency asking follow-up questions. She wants prosecutors to release her grand jury testimony so she can pass it on to the USADA.

At least four athletes — including Jones’ boyfriend, 100-meter world record holder Tim Montgomery — have been notified by the USADA that the anti-doping agency is pursuing possible drug cases against them that could result in them being banned from the Athens Games. Jones is not among the four.

Another athlete — sprinter Kelli White — already has accepted a ban after agency officials confronted her with their evidence.

Defendants in the steroid case include Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area laboratory that is said to have dispensed drugs to athletes.

Conte’s attorney sent a letter Monday to President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and three federal prosecutors seeking help with a plea deal that would keep him out of prison in exchange for testimony implicating potential Olympic athletes.

Jones declined to answer questions about her involvement with Conte but said she expected no problems as long as everyone tells the truth.

Jones has said she received ZMA — a legal nutritional supplement — from Conte from 1999 to 2001 in an arrangement through her training team. She stopped getting the supplement from Conte after divorcing C.J. Hunter, a former world champion shot putter who tested positive for steroids four times in 2000. She said she had no reason to believe that any substance she took was tainted.

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