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Jones' mates could get raw deal

27 November 2007

By Robert Falkoff

You worked for years to realize the dream of winning an Olympic medal. You finally claim that medal, treasure it and think it will be with you forever. Then, more than seven years after the fact, you suddenly face the harsh realization that the medal could be abruptly snatched away from you.

That's the pins-and-needles situation that eight former U.S. Olympic sprinters face because they were relay teammates of Marion Jones, who has admitted using banned anabolic steroids prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

It's a nightmarish wrong-place, wrong-time scenario for those who competed with Jones on the 4x400-meter relay and 4x100-meter relay in Sydney. Last week, the International Association of Athletics Federations' council recommended that all members of the two relay teams which included Jones should be stripped of their medals. The 4x400 relay team from the U.S. won gold and the 4x100 relay team won bronze.

The matter now goes before the International Olympic Committee executive board, which will discuss the issue at its December meeting.

Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry and Passion Richardson (prelims) contributed along with Jones on the 4x100 relay. Jearl-Miles Clark, Monique Hennagan, La Tasha Colander-Richardson and Andrea Anderson (prelims) joined with Jones as part of the winning 4x400 team. Richardson was quick to take her case to the public in October, saying on the CBS "Early Show" shortly after Jones' admission that she should not have to "suffer the consequences for someone else's bad decisions and choices."

But IOC President Jacques Rogge is on record as saying he believes the runners in the relays should lose their medals. Meanwhile, U.S. Olympic chairman Peter Ueberroth has said he thinks all medals should be returned because of Jones' presence.

If the IOC formally calls for all the U.S. relay medals to be taken away, one or more of the athletes could appeal. The IAAF amended a rule in 2004-2005 to include language that disqualifies entire relays teams which include one athlete guilty of a doping offense. An appeal would likely revolve around the argument that the relay language was not in effect for the 2000 Olympics.

The saddest part of the Jones doping saga is the ripple effect that it created. Through no fault of their own, innocent relay members may have to give up medals because Jones tainted the process for everyone. A team rises or falls as one. If a football or basketball team uses an ineligible player and has to forfeit, the entire squad absorbs the loss.

For all the members of the 4x100 and 4x400 women's relay teams for the U.S. in Sydney who were in the mix with Jones, there will be considerable sympathy if they are forced to return their medals. But as the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

If the medals are collected, perhaps it will strengthen the collective resolve to compete in an atmosphere free of performance-enhancing drugs.

That might be the one silver lining in an overall gloomy situation. Gaines, Edwards, Perry, Richardson, Clark, Hennagan, Colander-Richardson and Anderson deserve better. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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