Tired Jones wants to focus on other events

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- After weeks of defending herself
against doping allegations and trying to explain her subpar
performances on the track, 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.