Result of Marion Jones doping scandal: a race that no one won

The IOC decided Thursday not to reallocate the gold medal that admitted drug-cheat Marion Jones won in the 100 meter sprint at the 2000 Olympics. Why? The silver medalist has also been linked with doping.

By , Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

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    Marion Jones checks her time after winning the women's 100-meter dash at the US Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Indianapolis, in this June 23, 2006 photo.
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For the first time in Olympic history, an event will go without a gold medalist because of doping.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Wednesday that it has reallocated medals that Marion Jones won in the 200 meters (gold) and long jump (bronze) at the 2000 Summer Olympics. The reallocation of the two golds she won as a member of the US relay team is still pending the outcome of an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

But the gold medal won by Jones in the 100 meters – arguably the signature event of any Summer Games – will remain vacant.

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Ms. Jones, who had been the first woman to win five track and field medals in a single Summer Games, surrendered her medals in 2007 when she admitted to making false statements regarding her use of performance-enhancing drugs to federal investigators.

Typically, medals won by Olympians later found to be drug cheats simply pass to the next highest finisher. But the silver medalist in the 100 meters that year was Greece's Katerina Thanou.

Ms. Thanou has also been tainted by doping. Though Ms. Thanou has not tested positive for banned substances, she missed a scheduled drug test prior to the 2004 games in Athens, claiming that she and her training partner had been in a motorcycle accident. She was subsequently banned from competition for two years by track and field's international federation on the suspicion that she had staged the accident to miss the test.

The IOC's action Thursday was a clear statement. "They don't want to reward [Thanou]," says David Wallechinsky, author of "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics." "They don't consider her clean."

It is only the third time that a Summer Olympic event has gone without a gold medalist – and the first time since 1912, Mr. Wallechinsky says. In 1908, all four finalists in cycling's match sprint event spent so much time slowly jockeying for position that none finished under the mandatory time limit. In 1912, when Greco-Roman wrestling bouts could end only with a pin, the two finalists battled for nine hours before becoming so exhausted that they could not continue – each sharing silver.

But it is the first incidence of a gold medal going vacant for doping, pointing to the role that doping has played in the Olympics during the past 40 years. Unofficial lists suggest that roughly 50 Olympians have had their medals revoked for doping violations.

Four athletes from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing have had medals revoked for using banned substances.

• North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su was stripped of silver and bronze medals he won in 2008 after he tested positive for a drug that helps prevent trembling.

• Norwegian equestrian Tony Andre Hansen lost his Olympic bronze medal in team jumping after his horse failed a doping test.

Lyudmila Blonska, a heptathlon silver medalist from Ukraine, was stripped of her medal after testing positive for steroids – her second such offense.

Bahrain's Rashid Ramzi, middle-distance runner, also lost his Olympic medal for a doping-related offense. It was his country's first gold medal in track and field.

In the case of the 100-meter sprint in 2000, third-placed Tanya Lawrence of Jamaica will share the silver with Thanou. Merlene Ottey, also of Jamaica, will receive a bronze medal instead of fourth place.

Jones, who pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators about doping as well as a check-fraud scam, served almost six months in prison. Since her release in September 2008, Jones has said she is contemplating a return to competitive sports – this time in basketball.

Staff writer Mark Sappenfield contributed to this article.

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