In a June 12 Sports article, Marion Jones was incorrectly described as a five-time Olympic gold medal winner. Jones won three gold medals and two bronze medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. (Published 6/14/04)
Track superstar Marion Jones took the unusual step yesterday of requesting the release of her grand jury testimony a day after C.J. Hunter, the ex-husband of Jones, agreed to cooperate fully in the federal steroid investigation that is connected to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO).
A five-time Olympic gold medal winner, Jones is being investigated for potential drug violations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency but has not been charged with wrongdoing. The announcement yesterday of a motion to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of California was the latest in a series of preemptive steps Jones has taken to assert her innocence.
"The sworn testimony will confirm what Marion has said publicly time after time . . . and what is confirmed by the more than 160 drug tests she has taken: She has never, ever used performance enhancing drugs," her attorney, Joseph Burton, said in a statement.
Spokesmen for Jones said the request was an attempt to remain open and transparent in the face of public scrutiny, not a response to Hunter's deal to cooperate with all relevant law enforcement and investigative authorities. Talks between Hunter and the government were first reported in the San Jose Mercury News.
Hunter's lawyer, Angela Dement, confirmed yesterday that an agreement had been reached. Several sources said that Hunter, who was divorced from Jones in 2001 after a three-year marriage, was facing steroid distribution allegations.
"C.J. Hunter is cooperating and intends to cooperate with all relevant government and law enforcement entities," Dement said.
It is unclear whether Hunter's cooperation was sought by the Department of Justice to provide information on Jones, who vowed to sue USADA if it tried to bar her from the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. Federal offices were closed yesterday for the funeral of former president Ronald Reagan.
A former world champion shot putter whose career ended in ignominy in the summer of 2000 when he tested positive several times for the steroid nandrolone, Hunter met with assistant U.S. attorney Jeff Novitsky on Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., according to two sources.
Hunter's attorneys have already been contacted by officials from USADA, sources said, but Hunter has not yet met with the agency, which has declined to comment on the specifics of its investigations.
Hunter's breakup with Jones came months after his nandrolone positive was revealed during the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. At that time, BALCO founder Victor Conte Jr., one of four men with BALCO ties indicted on federal steroid charges, showed up in Sydney and publicly argued that Hunter's positives results were caused by contaminated supplements. Jones appeared at the same news conference.
Jones was not among the four athletes to whom USADA sent letters giving notice of possible doping violations this week, but she received a letter requesting that she answer more questions for the agency, her lawyers said.
Tim Montgomery, the father of Jones's infant son, and Chryste Gaines, Michelle Collins and Alvin Harrison received the letters. They were given 10 days to respond; they could then face formal charges from USADA. Montgomery lives with Jones in Raleigh.
USADA has never publicly acknowledged investigating Jones, but her lawyers say USADA made its position clear during a nearly three-hour meeting three weeks ago. Jones's attorneys requested the meeting after Jones's name had been associated with the case: Two Bay Area newspapers reported that she was among more than two dozen athletes given steroids by Conte, according to a federal investigator's memo.
Though Jones has stated repeatedly that she has never taken performance-enhancing drugs and barely knew Conte, lawyers close to the case say she appears to be a significant target of USADA's investigation.
It is unclear whether Jones's motion will result in the release of her testimony. Lawyers say such a step would be unusual given the sanctity generally accorded grand jury testimony. For release to be granted, Jones's lawyers would have to establish that doing so would be in the interest of fairness and also that her testimony would be made available to a judicial reviewing body.
"At this point, Marion Jones has answered all of the questions asked of her by the government and USADA; she has passed every drug test she has been given; and there exists no information suggesting that she has ever failed a test," Burton said in the statement. "If fairness exists in this process, USADA now needs to let her move forward with her life."