Fri, Dec 17, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Doping: Marion Jones sues Conte for US$25 million

AFP , SAN FRANCISCO

Triple Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones on Wednesday filed a US$25 million lawsuit against accused steroid peddler Victor Conte over his claims he provided her with performance-enhancing drugs.

The suit filed in US District Court in San Francisco, charges that "Conte defamed Jones with malice, with intent to injure Jones in her character and reputation as one of the greatest female athletes of all time" because he was motivated by "a vendetta," "self-interest" and "a long-standing grudge."

Conte, the founder of the infamous Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), is one of four men indicted on criminal charges of illegally distributing steroids to elite athletes.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has fingered BALCO as the source of tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), the so-called designer steroid whose discovery cast a shadow this year over sports ranging from major league baseball to the Athens Olympics.

Earlier this month, Conte said in an interview with ABC television's 20/20 program that he supplied Jones with several banned drugs before she won five medals -- including three golds -- at the Sydney Olympics.

He said he instructed her in how to use them and watched as she injected herself in the leg.

Jones's lawsuit notes that Conte had previously said he didn't provide her with banned drugs and suggests that his "sudden about-face on the issue, just four months before his criminal trial is anticipated, 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."

Jones -- who failed to win a medal at the Athens Olympics this year -- has repeatedly denied using banned drugs and has never failed a dope test.

Jones's name surfaced repeatedly as the BALCO case unfolded this year, but she consistently denied wrongdoing and anti-doping authorities have not levelled formal charges against her.

However, materials gleaned from the BALCO criminal investigation have already resulted in sanctions for some athletes who never tested positive for banned drugs.

Most recently, former world indoor 200m champion Michelle Collins was banned for eight years in a case built by USADA on evidence given in the BALCO case.

Sprinters Kelli White and Alvin Harrison were also banned for using THG without ever testing positive.

World 100m record holder Tim Montgomery, the father of Jones's baby son, is facing a lifetime ban.

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