Athletics: Former champion Jones trails home last on return to track as legal fight looms

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The Independent Online

Marion Jones had a dismal return to the track when she finished last over 400 metres in her first race of the season. The former Olympic and world champion, running for the first time since the Olympics in Athens, faded over the final 100m and clocked 55.03sec at the Mount San Antonio College Relays in California.

The race was won by the Jamaican Novlene Williams in 51.49sec with the Australian hurdler Jana Pittman - the fiancée of British athlete Chris Rawlinson - third in 52.33sec.

Jones drew loud cheers from the sparse crowd of about 6,000 in the 15,000-seat Mount SAC stadium when she was introduced, but to no avail. Jones had a disappointing and trying year in 2004 when she was implicated in a federal investigation into steroids distribution. She made the US Olympic team in only two events - the long jump and 400m relay - and failed to win a medal.

The 29-year-old athlete is due in court on Friday in her £13m-plus defamation lawsuit against Victor Conte, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative. Jones, who has never tested positive for performance-enhancing substances and has repeatedly denied using any, took action after Conte claimed he had supplied her with drugs.