Former Olympic track and field superstar Marion Jones pleaded guilty Friday to federal criminal charges that she lied to investigators about using steroids before her five-medal performance at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, and about her involvement in an unrelated New York-based counterfeit check scheme.
The admission that she used steroids, made in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., represents a fall from grace for a woman who was once among the most celebrated athletes in the world.
For years, the 31-year-old sprinter persistently and passionately denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs, but her statements in court on Friday not only make it probable she will be stripped of her five medals — a women’s track and field record — but also cast grave new doubts over sports’ greatest accomplishments in this steroid era.
Jones faces sentencing Jan. 11. The plea agreement stipulates that she receive no longer than a six-month sentence.
Outside court, Jones faced the media, tears streaming down her face, and announced she was “retiring from the sport of track and field, a sport which I deeply love.”
“It is with a great amount of shame that I say I have betrayed your trust,” Jones said. “I have let my country down.”
In accepting a plea agreement, she also becomes the first athlete to be convicted who had ties to the BALCO scandal. A 2003 federal raid on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in Northern California forced illegal steroid use into the open. A number of athletes were swept up in the ensuing investigation, Jones and home run king Barry Bonds among them.