05/20/05 — Marion Jones wants back in Europe

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Marion Jones wants back in Europe

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on May 20, 2005 1:47 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Marion Jones' attorney has asked track's world governing body and the U.S. Olympic Committee to help end a ban imposed on the three-time gold-medal winner by major European track meets.

Rich Nichols, Jones' Dallas-based attorney, sent the letters Wednesday to two top officials of the Monaco-based International Association of Athletics Federations and USOC chief executive officer Jim Scherr protesting the recent recommendation not to invite Jones to any events by the Euro Meetings group, an association representing Europe's top meets.

Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Olympics, has come under suspicion since being linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, whose founder was one of four men indicted in an alleged steroids distribution ring.

Nichols called on the IAAF to refuse to sanction any event that does not end the boycott.

"By voting to ban, boycott, render ineligible and thereby prohibit Marion Jones, an IAAF eligible athlete, the right to compete, ... the Euro Meetings group and each of its members have unilaterally, very boldly and publicly, violated and contravened the IAAF rules," Nichols wrote in the letter to IAAF president Lamine Diack and general secretary Istvan Gyulai.

Svein Arne Hansen, the head of the Euro Meetings group and the director of the Bislett meet in Oslo, Norway, has previously said that Jones' ties to BALCO justify the ban.

Organizers of the Essone meet in Paris recently withdrew an invitation to Jones, who is currently scheduled to compete in her first European event June 1 in Milan.

IAAF officials were not immediately available for comment but said earlier this week that while Jones is eligible to compete, meet organizers can decide whether to invite her.

In his letter to Scherr, Nichols said USOC bylaws compel the organization to take whatever steps necessary to protect Jones' rights as an eligible athlete. He asked for the USOC to assist in "our attempts to restore and protect Ms. Jones' right as an eligible athlete to compete internationally."

Scherr was not available for comment but spokesman Darryl Seibel of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based USOC said attorneys are "evaluating the letter to determine the appropriate response. This is a matter that will receive prompt attention."

Jones, who is based in Cary, has struggled so far this season. In her first 100 race of the season on April 30, she clocked a modest 11.28 seconds in Martinique. Her career best is 10.65, and she ran faster as a high school sophomore in 1991 -- 11.17.

Jones, who turns 30 this year, has not been charged with any doping violations. She denies using performance-enhancing drugs, and has never failed a doping test.

But she has been tied to BALCO founder Victor Conte, who has accused her of using banned performance-enhancing drugs.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in December, Jones alleges that Conte tarnished her reputation when he told a national television audience that Jones used performance-enhancing drugs before and after the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, where she won three gold medals and two bronzes. She is seeking $25 million in damages.

Conte, along with three others, has pleaded innocent to charges of distributing steroids to top athletes. The trial is scheduled to begin in September.