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Jones' teammates refuse to give up medals

14 December 2007

By Dave Ungrady

Two U.S. runners who have been asked to relinquish the relay medals they won with sprinter Marion Jones at the 2000 Sydney Olympics say they plan to keep them, even if the International Olympic Committee requests they return them.

The International Association of Athletics Federations last month requested that all U.S. athletes give up the Olympic medals they won on two relay teams in Sydney that included Jones. The sprinter recently admitted to using banned drugs and the IAAF took away her titles, some medals and records dating back to the Sydney games. The IOC, however, says it does not expect to decide the fate of the Olympic medals for several months.

Monique Hennagan, a member of the gold-medal winning 4x400-meter relay team, and Chryste Gaines, who ran on the bronze-medal winning 4x100-meter relay team, both said Thursday they plan to keep their medals.

"If they ask me to return it, I don't plan to return it," Hennagan said by phone. "If it's my choice, my choice will be no. I know I have not taken anything that I should not be taking. It's very unfair."

Gaines, who won her only Olympic gold medal on the 4x100-meter relay team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, echoed Hennagan's feeling.

"I'm not considering giving anything back," Gaines said by phone. "Especially, since no one has contacted me. If the IAAF or IOC contacts me, I still will not give it back. It's not fair to us who didn't do anything."

Torri Edwards, a member of the 4x100-meter relay team in Sydney, will likely return her bronze medal if requested by the IOC, said her agent, Emanuel Hudson. "We haven't gotten any final requests from anyone, but Torri follows the rules," he said by phone earlier this week. "I don't know why she would not return the medal."

Edwards has no other Olympic medal. During the 2004 Olympic Trials, it was revealed that Edwards tested positive for nikethamide, a banned stimulant, from a sugar pill she consumed at a meet earlier in the year. She received a one-year suspension and missed the 2004 Athens Olympics and the entire 2005 season. Edwards was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. 4x100-relay team at the 2007 IAAF outdoor championships and finished fourth in both the 100 and 200 meters at the competition.

Hennagan ran the second leg on the gold medal winning 4x400-meter relay team with Jones in Sydney and won a gold medal in the same event at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She said it would be unfair to request that she return her medal because a team who won the NFL's Super Bowl or won Major League Baseball's World Series would not be asked to relinquish the title if a player tested positive for a banned drug.

"The medal has meant so much to me and so many people who have gone through it with me," she said. "It hurts them more than it hurts me. They're adamant about not giving it back. It takes away their sense of accomplishment from what I accomplished. It's a victory for them, too."

Gaines, whose two-year suspension for drug use ended in May, said the lapse of time from the Sydney games diminishes the significance of giving her medal to another runner. "It's seven years later," she said. "Who is the medal going to mean anything to other than me? You might change the record books, but it's not going to change the fact that we got bronze medals."

Another member of the 4x400 team in Sydney, Jearl Miles Clark, will wait until the IOC makes a recommendation on the medals before she offers a comment, her agent, John Nubani, said Wednesday.

Clark, 41, has won two gold medals and one silver medal in the 4x400-meter relay in five consecutive Olympic games and is training in hopes of qualifying for Beijing. Clark finished sixth in the 800 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics in one minute, 57.27 seconds, less than a second off the American record she set in 1999. She missed the last few years of competition due to injury and the birth of her first child last spring.

Nanceen Perry, a member of the 4x100-relay team and LaTasha Colander, a member of the 4x400-meter relay team, were unavailable to comment.

Three U.S. athletes, including Jones, have returned Olympic medals for doping violations. Rick Demont tested positive at the 1972 Munich Olympics after winning the 1,500-meter freestyle. The IOC returned the medal to Demont in 2001.

Jerome Young won a gold medal with the 4x400-meter relay team in Sydney, but he and his teammates lost the medals after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Young used a banned drug in 1999. Teammates, including Michael Johnson, initially lost their medals but the CAS ruled in 2005 to return them to all but Young.

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