Athletics: Jones' surrender of medals causes headache for IOC

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The Independent Online

Marion Jones, who announced her retirement from athletics on Friday after admitting to taking steroids before the Sydney 2000 Olympics, has created further embarrassment for the sport – albeit unintentionally – by handing back the five medals she won at those Games.

As Jones, who faces six months in jail after pleading guilty in court about lying to federal agents over her doping, starts to reap a host of sanctions following her cheating, the International Olympic Committee now has to decide whether to promote the Sydney 100m silver medallist, Ekaterina Thanou, to the title, just as Carl Lewis inherited the 1988 Olympic 100m gold after Ben Johnson had tested positive for steroids. The problem is that the Greek athlete has served a two-year doping ban for missing three tests within 17 days before the Athens Olympics and there is some resistance within the sport to rewarding her in this way.

Australia's Olympic chief John Coates said yesterday that he did not think the Greek should get promotion. "I'd like to think that Ekaterina Thanou would not be awarded the gold medal," Coates said. "But there may be some legal difficulties for the International Olympic Committee to overcome in order to reach that conclusion."

Having been disqualified from all competitive events since 1 September 2000, Jones – who has also formally received a two-year ban – must now forfeit all medals, results, points and prizes from that date. The United States Olympic Committee will request the return of more than $100,000 in funding that she received. The International Association of Athletics Federations is likely to seek millions of dollars in prize money from Jones, who according to court documents is broke.

The implosion of the 31-year-old's career will impact widely. It looks like enabling Merlene Ottey, fourth in the Sydney 100m, to add to her record tally of eight Olympic medals. And if the same procedure takes place with Jones' performances at the 2001 World Championships, it would mean promoting Thanou from bronze in the 100m, and in the 200m the title would go to the silver medallist, Debbie Ferguson.