Jones says '20/20' interview defamatory

Updated: December 17, 2004, 12:46 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Olympic track star Marion Jones filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against BALCO head Victor Conte, who told a national TV audience that he gave her steroids and watched her inject herself with them.

Jones is seeking $25 million in the suit, alleging Conte tarnished her reputation when he made the statement Dec. 3 on ABC's "20/20."

Conte Asked To Take Polygraph
Marion Jones' legal team wants BALCO founder Victor Conte to take a lie detector test and has offered Thursday to pay for the exam.

On Wednesday, Jones filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Conte for saying publicly he supplied her with banned drugs for more than a year and watched her inject human growth hormone on April 21, 2001.

Rich Nichols, an attorney for Jones, said that Conte should be asked three questions:

1. "On April 21, 2001, did you observe Marion Jones inject herself with performance-enhancing drugs?"

2. "Have you ever leaked any grand jury testimony or other evidence related to the current criminal proceeding pending in federal court against you?"

3. "Have you ever observed Marion Jones illegally taking any performance-enhancing drugs?"

Conte did not immediately respond to the Post's requests for comment.

Conte and three others connected to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative were indicted in February by a federal grand jury for a variety of alleged offenses, including illegally distributing steroids.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, said Jones passed a lie detector test and includes a statement from her doctor saying she never used steroids. Jones won three gold medals and two bronzes during the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

Conte's statements, the suit said, "are false and malicious."

A telephone call placed Wednesday to Conte's lawyer, Robert Holley, was not immediately returned.

Conte, BALCO vice president James Valente, track coach Remi Korchemny and Greg Anderson, the personal trainer for baseball slugger Barry Bonds, face federal indictment on a range of accusations.

The federal charges include distributing steroids, possession of human growth hormone, money laundering and misbranding drugs with intent to defraud. All have pleaded not guilty.

Conte told ABC: "I think she made her decision, and she's going to have to be accountable to the consequences of her decision. If she said she didn't use drugs, then she lied."

Jones' lawsuit says she has passed 160 drug tests, including five at the 2000 Olympics, and "has never taken banned performance-enhancing drugs."

It claims that Conte's motive to concede steroid distribution ahead of his criminal prosecution "appears motivated by a desire to curry favor with prosecutors, garner sensationalized media attention, bolster Conte's own financial and other self interests and harm an individual against whom Conte has a long-standing grudge."

The five attorneys representing Jones in the lawsuit wrote that Conte "seeks to take full credit for all of her past successes, falsely asserting that Jones' five Olympic medals in 2000 were the product of his illegal drug regimen instead of Jones' true talent."

Jones failed to win any medals at last summer's Athens Olympics. She has been under investigation for months by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which has said it will take Conte's allegations into account.

Conte, in an e-mail to The Associated Press, said the lawsuit was "nothing more than a PR stunt by a desperate woman, who has regularly used drugs throughout her career. I look forward with all confidence to the court proceedings as I stand by everything I said on the '20/20' special.''

The founder of Burlingame-based BALCO, Conte said he worked with Jones from August 2000 to September 2001. He said he designed a doping regimen for her that included the previously undetectable steroid THG, the endurance-enhancing hormone EPO, human growth hormone and insulin.

Following Conte's comments, the International Olympic Committee opened an investigation into the allegations. World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound, a senior IOC member, has said Jones should be stripped of her medals if Conte is telling the truth.

In the lawsuit, one of the track star's doctors said she never exhibited the physical signs of an athlete taking banned substances.

None of the numerous blood and urine tests performed on her registered positive for illegal drugs, nor were there were any "physical changes or abnormalities that caused me to suspect that Ms. Jones was using any type of illegal performance enhancing drugs," said Richard T. Ferro, a North Carolina sports medicine specialist.

A former FBI polygraph examiner said he tested Jones on June 16 about whether she ever used performance enhancing drugs or was lying about "any personal use of performance enhancing drugs."

"It is my opinion that these responses are not indicative of deception," former agent Ronald Homer wrote in the lawsuit.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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