Originally created 12/16/04

Marion Jones sues BALCO founder, denies steroid use



SAN FRANCISCO - Track star Marion Jones filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against the man whose company is at the center of a federal investigation into illegal steroid use among some of the nation's top athletes.

Jones is seeking $25 million in the suit against Victor Conte, alleging he tarnished her reputation when he went on national television to say the Olympic medalist had injected steroids.

Conte and three others connected to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative were indicted in February for a variety of alleged offenses, including illegally distributing steroids. One of the defendants is Barry Bonds' personal trainer.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, said Jones passed a lie-detector test and includes a statement from her doctor saying she never used steroids. Jones won three gold medals and two bronzes during the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

Jones failed to win any medals at last summer's Athens Olympics. She has been under investigation for months by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which has said it will take Conte's allegations into account.

On Dec. 3, ABC's "20/20" broadcast an interview with Conte in which he said he gave Jones performance-enhancing drugs before and after the Sydney games. He also said he watched Jones inject herself with human growth hormone, statements the suit said "are false and malicious."

Jones' lawsuit says she has passed 160 drug tests, including five at the 2000 games in Sydney, and "has never taken banned performance enhancing drugs."

It claims that Conte's motive to concede steroid distribution ahead of his criminal prosecution "appears motivated by a desire to curry favor with prosecutors, garner sensationalized media attention, bolster Conte's own financial and other self interests and harm an individual against whom Conte has a long-standing grudge."

A telephone call placed Wednesday to Conte's lawyer, Robert Holley, was not immediately returned.