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Jones may still have a case to answer over tests

10 November 2006

By Owen Slot

Marion Jones, the American sprinter exonerated of a doping charge this summer, may have her case reopened. Jones tested positive for EPO on June 23 at the United States Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis, where she won the 100 metres. However, when her urine sample was tested for a second time, the “B sample” came up negative and, as is standard practice, she was cleared of all charges.

Nevertheless, the World Anti-Doping Association (Wada) has launched an investigation, in particular into why there should have been a disparity between the samples. It is so rare for A and B samples to produce different results that Wada has debated dropping the B test.

The laboratory that carried out Jones’s tests, at the University College of Los Angeles (UCLA), is one of the most highly respected of the Wada-accredited facilities. However, it has been unable to explain why the B sample results differed from the A. Wada was expecting Dr Don Catlin, who runs the UCLA laboratory, to report back more than a month ago, but despite correspondence between the two, he has not come up with an answer.

While Wada awaits the conclusion, the question yet to be answered is what it will do with the findings. Dick Pound, the Wada chairman, will not rule out the possibility of breaking new ground and reopening the case. “If the lab made a mistake, I don’t know what we’d do,” he said. Would he reopen the case? “It depends what we find,” Pound said.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

While Jones awaits the outcome of the UCLA investigation, it will not help her reputation that the coach who guided her to most of her success, Trevor Graham, was indicted last week for lying to federal agents when he told them that he had never provided athletes with performance-enhancing drugs in connection with the Balco steroids case.

Michael Johnson, the former US track star, has argued publicly that Jones’s reputation is so tarnished that she should retire. Jones has always sworn that she is clean and had passed hundreds of doping tests before the EPO test that — fleetingly — found otherwise in June.

Much of the debate over the disparity in the UCLA sample results will concern the timing of the tests. There has been concern over the amount of time taken between the providing of the sample in Indianapolis and the testing of it in Los Angeles, as samples can deteriorate.

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