Originally created 05/25/04

Jones' attorney: USADA has no compelling evidence



SAN FRANCISCO -- Marion Jones was presented with evidence of her possible steroid use by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Monday, but none of it was compelling enough to ban the star sprinter from the Olympics, her lawyer said.

"I didn't see anything today that would provide a basis for them to go forward," attorney Joseph Burton said. "From my mind, what ought to come out of it is, she should be exonerated."

Jones, who lives near Raleigh, N.C., and was a college basketball star at North Carolina, and her attorney met with USADA officials for about three hours in Colorado Springs. She was shown evidence believed to be obtained from the federal grand jury investigation into the Bay Area drug lab she has been linked to.

"If she had something to hide, she wouldn't have answered every question," said Burton.

Burton wouldn't elaborate on what evidence of possible steroid use they were shown, and the USADA had no immediate comment.

Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Sydney Games, met with the officials to urge them to retest the samples in an effort to prove she has not used performance-enhancing drugs, Burton said.

"We asked for the old samples to be retested for the very simple reason that we know that Marion Jones is drug-free and we know that any retest of old samples would show that," Burton said. "As a result of this request, we have now learned that USADA has no knowledge of any old samples to retest.

"This news is astounding. This is hard to believe."

USADA has said it has the power to bring a drug case against an athlete even without a positive drug test. Jones countered that she would sue USADA if it kept her from going to the Athens Olympics without a positive test.

USADA is believed to have letters, e-mails and invoices connecting athletes to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Jones has admitted to having a "limited relationship" with BALCO founder Victor Conte, one of four people indicted in an alleged steroid-distribution ring. Jones testified last year in front of the grand jury.

The New York Times reported last month that a $7,350 check from Jones' bank account was written to Conte in 2000, just before the Sydney Olympics. The Times said the check was signed by Jones' former husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter, who failed four separate steroids tests before the Sydney Games.

Burton argues that circumstantial evidence should not be enough to keep an athlete out of the Olympics.

"I would think a positive test or an admission by that athlete that the athlete took performance-enhancing drugs. Perhaps that's sufficient," Burton said. "But short of those two things ... it's highly questionable whether or not there should be any other basis for banning an athlete."

Jones requested the unusual meeting with USADA after numerous reports linked her to the Bay Area drug lab.

A report in the San Francisco Chronicle last week said USADA had drug tests from some track athletes that trained with support from BALCO, but Burton said Jones was not one of them.

"There is no evidence and no reason to go forward on any purported drug violation into Marion Jones," Burton said. "What they will do in the future I don't know."