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Archive for Monday, May 15, 2006

At long last, Jones makes splash

Controversial sprinter turns in dynamite time in 100

May 15, 2006

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— After an 11-month absence from the track, Marion Jones made an impressive return to competition.

The former Olympic champion ran the second-fastest women's 100 meters of this young season while winning a race Saturday night at the Gala Banamex Veracruz. Her time of 11.06 seconds was 0.02 off the fastest of the season, set in April by Allyson Felix.

Jones led a U.S. sweep of the race. Torri Edwards was second in 11.30 and Laverne Jones was third in 11.48. Jones said it was a great return and called the atmosphere for the meet at 4,900 feet "perfect."

The 30-year-old Jones has had a difficult past year. In addition to the injuries that kept her out of competition, she continues to be surrounded by doping allegations in connection with the BALCO scandal. Also, her former boyfriend and former coach have been charged with bank fraud and money laundering.

Former boyfriend Tim Montgomery, the father of Jones' young son, has pleaded not guilty and is free on $150,000 bail. Also charged is Steve Riddick, the former coach of Jones and Montgomery.

Jones, who won three golds and five medals overall at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has a personal best of 10.65 in the 100. She finished fourth in the Gala Banamex in 11.4 in June 2005, the last time she raced.

Later that month, Jones attempted to qualify for the U.S. world championships team, but walked off the track before the 100 preliminaries with a hip injury. She also withdrew from the 200, ending a season marked with slow times and sluggish performances.

It was a stark turnaround for the once the charismatic darling of the sport. She took 2003 off to have a baby and has never returned to her old form. It showed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where Jones failed to medal after making the U.S. team in only two events - the long jump and 400 relay.

Meanwhile, through associations and accusations by her ex-husband and the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, doping suspicions grew. Last year, several major European meet directors decided against inviting Jones or Montgomery to their events because of the BALCO investigation.

Jones has never tested positive for performance-enhancing substances and has repeatedly denied using them. She has filed a $25 million defamation suit against BALCO founder Victor Conte, who told a national television audience she had used banned substances.

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