Disgraced U.S. sprinter Marion Jones told talk show host Oprah Winfrey in an interview aired on Wednesday she will never compete again, but feels she would have won five Olympic medals even without an illegal drug.
In her first interview since completing a six-month prison term for lying to government prosecutors about drug use, Jones insisted she never thought she was being given anything beyond legal vitamins and supplements, and was told the drug that led to her downfall was just flaxseed oil.
"Never knowingly did I take performance enhancing drugs," she told the talk show host during a sometimes emotional interview taped on Friday in which she wept at one point.
"I will never run again. I've retired from the sport," she said, but "with a bit of sadness because I love to compete."
She said she no longer has "Marion Jones the athlete" to hide behind and is anxious to get on with her life, including raising her two children, ages 1 and 5.
In the 2000 Sydney games, Jones became the first woman to win five medals -- three gold and two bronze -- in a single competition. But the International Olympic Committee stripped her of the medals and banned her from competition through last summer's games in Beijing.
Jones admitted in 2007 she lied to federal prosecutors about her steroid use and was also found guilty of misleading investigators about a bank fraud case involving her ex-boyfriend and the father of her 5-year-old, former 100-meters world record holder Tim Montgomery.
Jones said she remembered the moment she decided to lie about her drug use -- when prosecutors showed her a sample of tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), which was also known as "the clear."
"I knew that I had taken that substance, I made the decision that I was gonna lie and I was gonna, you know, try and cover it up," she said.
Jones said she regretted that she didn't take five minutes to think the matter over and talk to her lawyers, because while she recognized the drug, she did not know it was illegal when it was given to her.
She said there were "moments when I felt I had more energy on the track ... that second wind" and times in training "when I felt really good."
But she ascribed that to hard training, the supplements she was taking and the fact that she expected to feel that way in an Olympic year.
"Nothing felt different," she said. "I felt strong, I felt powerful," she said, and always felt from an early age that she had something no one else did.
Jones, 33, said she sometimes reruns her races in her mind and asks herself if she would have won without the illegal substance. "Usually I answer yes. I still think I would have won." But she said she realizes there will always be a question mark over those competitions.
"It wasn't as difficult to give back the medals because it's not about the hardware," she said. "But it's the memory that will be tarnished."
She wept while reading from a letter she wrote to her children while in jail, telling them "this place where your mommy has to live for six months is called prison."
She said missing their birthdays while in prison and being away from them and her husband and father of her 1-year-old, Olympic sprinter Obadele Thompson, was the hardest part about being incarcerated.
"I truly believe that the reason I made the awful mistake and a few thereafter was because I didn't love myself enough to tell the truth," she said.
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