SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- After weeks of defending herself against doping allegations and trying to explain her subpar performances, Marion Jones smiled and laughed as she poked a little fun at herself.
Sure, she had just given away a chance to defend her Olympic 200 meter title. And she failed to qualify for the 100, another event in which she would have gone to Athens as the reigning champion. Perhaps trying to come back barely a year after giving birth was a bit too ambitious, she admitted.
But she predicted success at the Summer Games, and more in the future. All along, she has said she plans to compete through the 2008 Beijing Games.
"You sometimes get slapped in the face with bad performances or a bad year. This just happened to be probably my worst, and it doesn't help that I'm on the top of my sport," she said Saturday at a news conference following her withdrawal from the 200.
"I'm extremely optimistic that once this year is over and I end on a high note in Athens with gold medals that I can regroup over the rest of the summer and come back and get to where I was in the past, if not better.
"If anything, I think this down year will provide even more motivation to prove to myself and to prove to the world that I still have it, that I'm not this old shriveled- up mother," she said, finally allowing herself to laugh.
An exhausted Jones pulled out of the 200 at the U.S. track and field trials to focus on the long jump and the relays - and perhaps even a spot in the 100.
"It's extremely disappointing. I'm not going to candy coat anything," she said. "My reasoning for pulling out of the 200 today is simply because of fatigue. There's no other reason. After running my round yesterday I was simply tired, exhausted."
Jones won an unprecedented five track and field medals at the 2000 Sydney Games. But she has had mostly disappointing performances this season, a year after giving birth to a son, and she has been under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
She has repeatedly denied she has ever used performance-enhancing substances.
"I think I underestimated childbirth. It was a challenge. I was able to get my weight down quite easily, I feel fit, I look fit," Jones said. "It really didn't happen out there this week. Sure we can attribute it to childbirth, to distractions."
As of now, Jones will not be defending either of her Olympic sprint titles at the Athens Games. But there's still a chance she could make the 100 team, despite failing to qualify during the Olympic trials.
A change in the 100 squad is possible because of a drug case involving Torri Edwards, who finished second in the trials. If she loses her arbitration hearing set for Monday and is banned for two years for using a stimulant, she would lose her place on the team.
That would move the fourth-place finisher at the trials, Gail Devers, onto the team. But Devers, who already has won two Olympic 100 titles, has always wanted to win a hurdles title and could skip the 100 to focus on the hurdles. In that case, the fifth-place finisher - Jones - would make the team.
U.S. Olympic women's track coach Sue Humphrey said Devers will wait until after Sunday's hurdles final to decide whether to remain the alternate for the 100.
"If it happens that a lane opens up for whatever reason in Athens, you can be sure I will take advantage of it," Jones said. "I will prepare for the next few weeks just in case that happens so I'm not surprised by the time I get to Athens."
Jones won the long jump competition at the Olympic trials. By making the U.S. team in that event, she automatically qualifies for all relays.
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