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Marion Jones` coach sure she`s clean

19 August 2006

Marion Jones' coach said he had received a text message from the former Olympic champion telling him traces of erythropoietin (EPO) had been found in her failed drug test at June's U.S. championships.

"She said I have got some traces of EPO," Steve Riddick told Reuters in a telephone call on Saturday from his Norfolk, Virginia, home.

"I started laughing, but she said she was serious."

Jones hurriedly withdrew from the Zurich Golden League meeting on Friday and returned to the United States.

A source later told Reuters Jones had failed an initial drugs test at the U.S. championships in Indianapolis.

Jones has never previously failed a dope test and has always denied taking performance-enhancing drugs.

If her "B" or second sample is positive and Jones does not clear her name in an arbitration hearing, the 30-year-old would face a two-year ban from the sport.

Riddick, who has worked with Jones for the past two years, said he was sure the "B" sample would be negative.

"I would stake my life on it; she did not take EPO," he said.


Jones had been making a comeback in the sport after giving birth in 2003 and won the U.S. 100 meters championship on the day she was tested.

Riddick queried why any 100 meters runner would take EPO, a substance that boosts endurance by increasing the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

"It don't make no sense unless she wanted to commit public suicide," Riddick said of Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Olympics, three of them gold.

He also raised the possibility of a mix-up in her sample.

Neither USADA nor the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) would comment on her test.

Jones' general counsel denied she had used banned drugs.

"Marion Jones has always been clear, she has never taken performance-enhancing substances, not now, not ever," Rich Nichols said in a statement to Reuters.

However, Jones has been under scrutiny by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) since being linked to the BALCO scandal in 2003.

The man whose laboratory sparked the BALCO scandal said he stood behind comments he had made about seeing Jones use banned drugs.

"I have always told the truth regarding my relationship with Marion Jones," convicted BALCO founder Victor Conte said in an e-mail to Reuters on Saturday.

Conte, who served four months in prison on steroid distribution charges, has previously said he provided Jones with a variety of banned drugs.

Jones denied the allegations and filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Conte that was settled this year. Terms of the settlement were not announced.

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