M. Jones Failed Drug Test in June

Marion Jones
Marion Jones crosses the finish line to win the 100M race at the U.S. National Championships in Indianapolis. (Matthew Stockman - Getty Images)
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 19, 2006

U.S. sprinter Marion Jones, a five-time Olympic medalist, failed a drug test at the U.S. national championships in Indianapolis in June, according to sources with knowledge of the test results.

The substance for which Jones tested positive is erythropoietin (EPO), an endurance-boosting drug, the sources said.

The results of the test have not been made public because the testing on Jones's urine sample has not been completed, sources said. Only after the second half of her sample -- the backup sample -- is tested, would Jones be charged with a doping violation. If EPO is found in the B sample as well, she would face a two-year ban from track and field.

Jones, 30, has been dogged with doping allegations since the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco) drug scandal broke in 2003, but she has vehemently maintained her innocence and boasted that she had never failed a drug test.

Should Jones be charged with a doping violation, she would become the third prominent American athlete to face such charges in the last month. Cyclist Floyd Landis tested positive for exogenous testosterone after winning the Tour de France. Sprinter Justin Gatlin, a three-time Olympic medalist who shares the world record in the 100 meters, tested positive for a steroid at a track meet in April.

Both have said they don't know what caused the positive tests.

Jones's agent, Charlie Wells, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Attorney Joseph Burton, who represented Jones when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigated her in connection to the BALCO case, also did not return a call.

Jones pulled out of a major meet in Zurich on Friday hours before its start, the Associated Press reported. Jones "received a phone call from the United States this morning and left for personal reasons," Hansjorg Wirz, the meet organizer and head of the European Athletics Association told the AP. Wirz said Jones already was on a plane home when she called.

When an athlete's A sample is found to contain a banned substance, the athlete is notified and given the opportunity to be present at the testing of the B sample, which nearly always confirms the A. It is not known when Jones's B sample will be tested. It can take several weeks for the process to run its course.

USADA chief executive Terry Madden declined comment. Spokesmen for USA Track and Field and the U.S. Olympic Committee also declined comment.

Because the test came out of a U.S. meet, the results would be handled by the USADA.

EPO, considered a popular drug among distance runners and cyclists, was not known to be helpful to sprinters until the Balco scandal unfolded. U.S. sprinter Kelli White, who lost two world sprint titles because of drug charges, admitted using it along with steroids. The USADA won cases charging other sprinters with using it.

Since winning five medals at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Jones's career has stalled, but this summer she quietly returned to high-level competition.

She won the 100-meter title at the U.S. championships and five prestigious international 100 races. She finished second in two others, and stands as the second-ranked 100 sprinter in the world. Though she has not approached her personal best in the 100 -- a 10.65 in 1998 -- she has three times been clocked under 11 seconds.

The positive test, if supported by the B sample, could end Jones's career. It would be the latest in a string of blows to a woman once considered Nike's biggest client and arguably the most marketable female athlete in the world. She established herself as one of the best athletes in Olympic history when she claimed three gold medals and two bronze medals in Sydney.

But at those Games, it was revealed that Jones's then-husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter, tested positive several times for the steroid nandrolone. Jones missed the 2003 season when she gave birth to a son, Monty, whose father Tim Montgomery later received a drug ban for his connection to the BALCO scandal.

Jones, who announced that the USADA was investigating her in connection with the Balco scandal in 2004, made a number of attempts to prove her innocence, including submitting to a polygraph test in which she denied using any drugs.

Jones then endured a disappointing Olympics in Athens in 2004, finishing fifth in the long jump and botching a handoff that led to the women's 4x100 relay team's failure to finish the race. Last year proved equally frustrating: After a spring in which she performed poorly, she was barred from competing at a number of meets in Europe because of the suspicion surrounding her.

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