Jones, in first post-prison interview, says lying a mistake

Updated: October 29, 2008, 7:54 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHICAGO -- Disgraced American sprinter Marion Jones told talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in an interview aired on Wednesday she will never compete again, but believes 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 eventually led to her downfall was just flaxseed oil.

Never knowingly did I take performance-enhancing drugs.

-- Marion Jones

"Never knowingly did I take performance-enhancing drugs," she told Winfrey during a sometimes emotional interview, taped Friday, in which she wept at one point.

In a statement to ESPN.com, BALCO founder Victor Conte disputed Jones' claim that she didn't knowingly use steroids.

"I cannot believe Marion Jones continues to lie. Enough is enough. She knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs and has already been to prison for lying about it in the first place," Conte said.

In the statement, Conte described how he taught Jones to inject herself with BALCO's performance-enhancing drugs.

"I showed her something I had brought with me called a Novopen. It was a cartridge injector pen that contained 45 units of Norditropin growth hormone. The injector contained enough liquid for ten injections. I instructed her how to inject herself with 4.5 units of growth hormone and told her to follow the same protocol three times per week. I taught her to change the needle, dial up the dosage, disperse any air in the chamber, and inject the drug. When she left my room, she took the Novopen with her so she could administer her own injections thereafter."

In the interview with Oprah, Jones said she is officially retired from competitive track and field.

"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.

I cannot believe Marion Jones continues to lie. Enough is enough. She knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs and has already been to prison for lying about it in the first place.

-- Victor Conte

At 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-meter 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.

Jones 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 the 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.

Jones' U.S. relay teammates have filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport seeking to retain their 2000 Olympic medals. The International Olympic Committee disqualified her teammates, but conceded none of them broke any rules.

Prodded by Winfrey, Jones apologized to her teammates for lying to prosecutors.

"When I stepped on that track, I thought everybody was drug-free, including myself," Jones said. "I apologize for having to put everybody through all of this.

"I'm trying to move on. I hope that everybody else can move on, too."

Information from ESPN.com's Mike Fish, Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE