Marion was in the clear
By STEVE SPINKS and AAP
SOUTHERN Cross University's Dr Robert Weatherby is not surprised American sprinter Marion Jones was taking steroids at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
He just couldn't prove it.
As the co-ordinator of screening procedures at the Australian Sports Drug Testing Labaratory, Dr Weatherby oversaw much of the drug testing that occurred during the Games.
This week Jones admitted to using steroids before and after the Olympics, including a steroid nicknamed 'the clear' and better known as THG or tetrahydrogestrinone.
'The clear' is the drug that was manufactured by the US-based BALCO company and it has since been implicated in a series of high-profile drug failures including that of British sprinter Dwain Chambers.
"I'm not surprised but I did find myself asking why she had turned herself in," Dr Weatherby said.
"But someone was going to blow the whistle on her so she put her hand up and will give evidence against someone.
"Once THG was discovered, Jones' performances dropped off and when an athlete experiences a quick change like that you have to wonder."
THG was only discovered when someone mailed a syringe full of the steroid to drug testing authorities and it still took scientists eight months to work out what the substance was.
The synthesizing of a steroid into an undectable performance enhancer is a by-product of professional sport and Dr Weatherby says drug testing authorities will never have a test that conquers all.
"In order to test for something you have to know it exists," he said.
"That wasn't the case with THG.
"Someone asked me the other day when will drug testers catch up with the drug takers.
"I told them it will never happen, but we have to be as close behind as possible."
Meanwhile, the United States Olympic Committee has publicly apologised to the organisers and competitors of the 2000 Sydney Games and the Australian public after for Marion Jones' behaviour.
Jones has accepted a two-year ban and relinquished the three gold and two bronze medals she won in Sydney, while her US relay teammates have also been ordered to hand back medals.
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates welcomed the apology from his US counterpart Peter Ueberroth.
Coates also said that disgraced Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou should not be promoted to the gold medal position in the 100m, despite finishing second behind Jones in Sydney.
Thanou has since served a two-year ban of her own after failing to show up for a doping test on the eve of the Athens Olympics.
Jamaica's Tayna Lawrence claimed the 100m bronze medal in Sydney.
As part of the USOC's apology, Ueberroth pledged that the US would send a clean team to next year's Beijing Olympics.
Jones, 31, won five medals in Sydney - including gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x400m relay.
Two of her teammates in the 4x100m squad which finished third in Sydney, Torri Edwards and Chryste Gaines, have also served doping bans.
"On the (4x100m and 4x400m) relays, it's my expectation that the United States Olympic Committee will be required to also hand back the medals won by the other ladies who competed with Jones in the two relays," said Coates.
"That is normal practice."
Jones pleaded guilty last week to lying to US investigators about doping, admitting she had taken designer steroid 'the clear' from September 2000 to July 2001.
She retired last week, before agreeing to forfeit all results dating back to September 1, 2000 - a fortnight before the start of the Sydney Olympics.
Jones may also be required to pay back millions of dollars in prizemoney and endorsements from the USOC and the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Coates said that the revelations regarding the drug use of Jones, whose 'drive for five' gold medals was the international focus of the Sydney Olympics, should not sully the 2000 edition of the Games.
"There were (approximately) 300 events at the Sydney Games," said Coates.
"I think it's an insult to 99 per cent of the medal winners to suggest that all of the results were affected because they were not.
"For many sports there is no benefit and no history of drug taking, so I think it's wrong to say that the whole of the Games is sullied ... fortunately since the Sydney Olympic Games, it's no longer just the sports movement, the IOC and the sports, who are conducting the fight against doping.
"We have the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency and so governments have come on board in Australia and around the world in a 50-50 partnership."