LAUSANNE, Switzerland, (Reuters) – A group of U.S. relay team members who were stripped of their 2000 Olympic medals by the IOC because of Marion Jones’s doping can retain them, The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said yesterday.
The ruling for the U.S. women’s 4×100 and 4×400 metres teams overturned a 2008 International Olympic Committee executive committee decision to take the athletes’ medals after Jones, a member of both relays, admitted she had used a banned substance during the Games.
The U.S. 4×100 team won bronze and the 4×400 team gold in Sydney. Jones has been stripped of all five medals she won at the Games.
Seven relay athletes appealed the IOC decision concerning their medals. A three-member CAS panel said the IOC decision had been reversed based on IOC and International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) rules applicable at the time.
Relay team member Passion Richardson said she was thankful for CAS’s ruling, but accused the IOC and U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) of trying to punish innocent athletes.
“From the beginning it has been clear that the IOC, with the assistance and cooperation of the United States Olympic Committee, has been violating all Olympic rules and principles in a misguided effort to punish innocent athletes so it will appear that they are tough on doping,” Richardson said in a statement.
“We are thankful that the Court’s decision resolves, once and for all, that we earned our medals and no one can take them or the results we achieved.”
The IOC was disappointed with yesterday’s ruling.
“The result of the athletes’ appeal is disappointing and especially unfortunate for the athletes of the other teams who competed according to the rules,” the IOC said in a statement.
It noted clearer and more stringent rules had been adopted by the IAAF in 2003 in order to ensure that similar scenarios would be prevented in the future.
The USOC said it still believed the medals were won unfairly because of Jones’s doping, but added: “We have always recognized that the athletes who made up the U.S. teams might have a legal basis on which to defend these medals.”
The decision means Jearl Miles-Clark, Monique Hennagan, LaTasha Colander Clark and Andrea Anderson, who participated in various rounds of the 4×400 with Jones, will retain their gold medals.
Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry and Richardson won the 4×100 metres bronze with Jones.
All but Perry participated in the appeal.
“The (CAS) panel found that at the time of the Sydney Olympic Games there was no express IOC or IAAF rule in force that clearly allowed the IOC to annul the relay team results if one team member was found to have committed a doping offence,” CAS said in a news release.
“The panel acknowledges that the outcome of this case may be unfair to the other relay teams that competed with no doped athletes helping their performance; however, such outcome exclusively depends on the rules enacted or not enacted by the IOC and by the IAAF at the time.”
The ruling also ordered the IOC to pay the athletes 10,000 Swiss Francs ($9,569) as a contribution towards their expenses incurred in appealing.
Both the USOC and USA Track & Field (USATF) expressed sympathy to athletes impacted by Jones’s doping.
“We are sorry that Ms Jones’ actions continue to have a negative effect on the world of sport and express our sympathy for all of the athletes who competed cleanly at the Olympic Games in Sydney and were damaged by Ms Jones’ poor decisions,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement.
USATF president Stephanie Hightower and CEO Doug Logan had a similar reaction.
“We are sympathetic to any clean athlete who was robbed of something because of Marion Jones’ cheating: competitors, team mates, fans and anyone who strives for fair competition,” they said in a joint statement.