LONDON (AP) — The IOC is ready to move quickly to strip Marion Jones of her five Olympic medals following her doping confession — although her most prized gold could wind up going to a runner involved in a major drug scandal herself.
The International Olympic Committee said yesterday it will step up its investigation into the Jones case and the possible removal of her three gold and two bronze medals from the 2000 Sydney Games.
“We welcome that there is now some light to be shed on the whole affair,” IOC vice president Thomas Bach told the Associated Press. “Now, with this admission, we can accelerate and speed up the procedures.”
The IOC opened its investigation in December 2004 after Jones was implicated in the BALCO steroid scandal. The American runner — the only female track and field athlete to win five medals at a single Olympics — repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and the IOC had little firm evidence to go on until now.
Jones pleaded pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y. to lying to federal investigators when she denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
“This is a sad day for sport. The only good that can be drawn from today’s revelations is that her decision to finally admit the truth will play we hope, a key part in breaking the back of the BALCO affair,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said. “The IOC has since 2004 wanted to ascertain the extent to which the case has had an impact on the Olympic Games. Our disciplinary commission, which has been working on this file over the past years, will now glean what it can from her comments, and work with the IAAF and the USOC on how to finally get to the bottom of this sorry case.”
Jones, who announced her retirement after the hearing, said she took steroids from September 2000 to July 2001 and said she was told by her then-coach Trevor Graham that she was taking flaxseed oil when it was actually “the clear.”
“By November 2003, I realized he was giving me performance-enhancing drugs,” she told the judge.
Bach said the IOC would work in tandem with track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, to determine whether Jones should have her medals and results taken away.
“We can move quite quickly,” said Bach, a German lawyer who leads the IOC’s three-man panel investigating the Jones case. “With the admissions, the facts are quite clear. I think it can be finalized by the end of the year.”
The ruling IOC executive board’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 10-12 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Under statute of limitations rules, the IOC and other sports bodies can go back eight years to strip medals and nullify results. In Jones’ case, that would include the 2000 Olympics, where she won gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 1,600 relay and bronze in the long jump and 400 relay.
The standings normally would be readjusted, with the second-place finisher moving up to gold, third to silver and fourth to bronze.
Standing to inherit Jones’ gold medal in the 100 would be Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou, who finished second in Sydney in 11.12 seconds.
Thanou and fellow Greek runner Kostas Kenteris were at the center of a major doping scandal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. They failed to show up for drug tests on the eve of the games, claimed they were injured in a motorcycle accident and eventually pulled out. Both were later suspended for two years.
Without firm evidence or an admission that Thanou was doping at the time, there may be no legal way to prevent her from getting the gold if it’s taken from Jones.
“It’s very unfortunate,” IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. “The second place [finisher] is a convicted drugs cheat.”
The IOC also could strip the medals won by those who ran with Jones in the Sydney relays. That would include bronze medalists Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry and alternate Passion Richardson in the 400 relay; gold medalists Jearl Miles-Clark, Monique Henderson, La Tasha Colander-Richardson and alternate Andrea Anderson ran in the 1,600 relay.
“If the reports are accurate and if she does in fact acknowledge steroid use at the Sydney Olympic Games then that’s a good thing,” Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates said. “But it’s still very, very disappointing for all of the athletes that competed against her. … I don’t think an acknowledgment now will ever right the injustice for those other ladies.”
“I would hope the medals would be taken away,” he said.
The IAAF said it was waiting for official notification from USADA setting out the details of Jones’ reported admission. The IAAF could strip Jones of all her medals and results from the world championships and other events from that time.
“Our rules are clear,” Davies said.