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Marion Jones sues accuser

December 16, 2004 11:31 IST
Track and field great Marion Jones, who has seen her reputation sullied by allegations of steroid use, sued the head of the BALCO lab on Wednesday for defamation, saying he falsely accused her of doping.

The $25 million lawsuit was the latest salvo in the global steroid scandal around BALCO, a San Francisco-area lab whose owner Victor Conte recently said he provided Jones with steroids and saw her using them.

"Conte has falsely and maliciously accused Jones of taking banned performance enhancing drugs," her attorneys said in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for Northern California.

"Conte's vendetta against Jones has its roots in Conte's repeatedly unsuccessful efforts to develop a professional relationship with Jones," the suit said.

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"Driven by his long-standing
vendetta with Jones, Conte seems willing to do and say whatever it takes to destroy her career and reputation."

Although he faces federal steroid distribution charges that could land him up to two years in jail, Conte admitted in a television interview and sports magazine article earlier this month that he did indeed traffic in steroids.

Since those revelations, the International Olympic Committee has set up a disciplinary commission to investigate Conte's allegations against Jones.

In a statement to Reuters on Wednesday, Conte stood by his allegations that he witnessed Jones using steroids in a drug program he devised.

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

"I am telling the truth and Marion is lying."

Triple Olympic champion Jones has admitted to using Conte's legal ZMA mineral supplement between 1999-2001 but has vigorously denied taking any steroids. In her suit, she said she rebuffed Conte's efforts to endorse ZMA.

Conte is one of four men facing criminal charges in the scandal that has sullied the reputation of other top athletes including baseball legend Barry Bonds. The BALCO trial could begin as early as next March.

The Jones lawsuit said the $25 million amount sought reflected possible loss of income from competitions, promotional appearances and sponsorships.

Adam Tanner
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