Jones exploring defamation suit

LONDON -- American gold medal-winning sprinter Marion
Jones has announced she will take legal action after being
accused of taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

The allegations were made by founder of the Bay Area Laboratory
Co-operative (BALCO) Victor Conte, who has been charged along
with three other men of distributing illegal steroids to
baseball superstars Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi as well as
money laundering.

Conte, who is likely to face trial in March, claimed in an ABC
television interview that aired Friday that he had supplied
Jones with banned substances leading up to the Sydney Olympics,
in which she won five medals, including three golds.

Jones repeatedly and vehemently has refuted any allegations of
drug abuse after being embroiled in the BALCO scandal and
immediately hit back at Conte.

"Victor Conte's allegations about me are not true, and the truth
will come out in the appropriate forum," Jones said in a
statement issued through her lawyer. "I have instructed my
lawyers to vigorously explore a defamation lawsuit against
Victor Conte."

Jones' lawyer, Richard Nicholls, has questioned Conte's

"Marion has steadfastly maintained her position throughout - she
has never, ever used performance-enhancing drugs," Nicholls
said Friday. "Victor Conte is a man facing a 42-count federal
indictment, while Marion Jones is one of America's most
decorated female athletes. Mr. Conte's statements have been
wildly contradictory.

"Mr. Conte chose to make unsubstantiated allegations on
television, while Marion Jones demanded to take, and then
passed, a lie detector examination. Mr. Conte is simply not
credible. We challenge him to submit to the same lie detector
procedure that Marion Jones passed."

Both the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) have been keeping a close eye on the

Under the stewardship of president Jacques Rogge, the IOC has
adopted a "zero tolerance" stance on drugs as they look to
ensure that systematic doping programs implemented in the former
Eastern Bloc in the 1970s and 80s are not allowed to prosper.

If the allegations were shown to have any basis in truth, Jones
could be stripped of her medals from Sydney.

Jones became involved in the affair when she testified before
the BALCO federal grand jury and since has been under
investigation for steroid use by the United States Anti-Doping
Agency (USADA).

She has never failed a drug test, but that seemingly is no
longer a viable defense.

Jones' partner, 100-meter record holder Tim Montgomery, and
Chryste Gaines both face lifetime bans after being charged due
to information obtained in raids on BALCO, not because of
positive tests.