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I did not deserve prison, says athlete Marion Jones


Marion Jones on her time in prison

Marion Jones says she did not deserve a prison term for lying about steroid use and involvement in a drugs fraud case.

Jones, 35, who won three gold medals at the Sydney Olympics, was given a six-month prison sentence in January 2008.

"I know I broke the law and committed a crime by lying," the former fastest woman in the world told Inside Sport.

"My reputation, fame and fortune was lost. Learning that lesson would have benefitted society more than putting me away for six months."

During her sentence, Jones spent six weeks in solitary confinement and served two years' probation both for lying to federal investigators about using performance-enhancing drugs and a separate cheque fraud case involving her former boyfriend, sprinter Tim Montgomery.

Jones won five medals in Sydney, although it emerged during the 2000 Games her then-husband, shot-putter CJ Hunter, had failed a drugs test prior to the competition.

Jones then fell foul of a major investigation into the manufacture of performance-enhancing drugs.

Marion Jones
Jones was the world's top female athlete at one stage

In court in 2007, she admitted to steroid use between September 2000 and July 2001, and also lying to the federal inquiry in November 2003 over the matter.

As well as going to jail, Jones was stripped of her Olympic medals, while her records were erased from the history books.

The disgraced sprinter insisted that she had no idea she was taking any banned substances when she won her medals in Sydney, adding that it was only in 2003 that she realised what she had taken.

"In 2000, I had no idea that I had been given something illegal," stated Jones, who now speaks to young people about the mistakes she made.

"At that point, I knew that I had just worked hard and I was blessed with an enormous amount of talent."

And she insisted she would still have had a chance of glory in Sydney, even if she had not been taking drugs.

"Even before I was given the drugs, in 1998 I set my personal bests and my success as a junior gets overshadowed by what happened subsequently," suggested the mother of three.

Marion Jones

Inside Sport meets Marion Jones

"I know that when I first got out of college I wasn't given anything and even before I entered college I made the Olympic team at 15. I'm sure that if I hadn't been given anything my chances of winning in Sydney would still have been pretty strong because I'm a hard worker.

"However, I was too trusting and didn't ask questions that I should have.

"I can now see why people are sceptical but what many don't realise was that my inner circle was very small. I thought that because it was close and intimate that the people were around me because I was Marion, not because I was Marion Jones."

However, Jones's claim that she was "too trusting" has been disputed by Victor Conte, who was jailed for supplying her, Montgomery and other athletes with banned substances via his Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (Balco) 'sports nutrition' set-up.

In an email to BBC Sport before Inside Sport's transmission, Conte - who was unsuccessfully sued for defamation by Jones in 2004 - said: "Marion Jones is not being truthful about her past use of drugs.

"She knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs and I have said this all along. I said it before she sued me for $25m, and I have continued to say it after her case against me was dismissed.

"It is sad that she has not been willing to come completely clean about her drug use. I still hold out hope that Marion will 'do the right thing' and stop telling half-truths and one day tell the entire truth."

You can see a repeat of the full interview on Inside Sport: The Marion Jones Story on BBC One on Saturday, 11 December.

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see also
US relay teams win medal appeal
16 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Athletics 'all corrupt' - Johnson
08 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Jones signs for basketball team
10 Mar 10 |  Basketball
Disgraced US sprinter leaves jail
05 Sep 08 |  Americas
Marion Jones's fall from grace
11 Jan 08 |  Athletics
Jones punishment is fair - Lewis
12 Jan 08 |  Athletics
Six-month jail sentence for Jones
11 Jan 08 |  Americas
Jones's results annulled by IAAF
23 Nov 07 |  Athletics
Jones pleads guilty in drug case
06 Oct 07 |  Americas

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