Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones: Vol. 36

Story by Eric.

This is the 36th submission in a long series about Marion Jones, a former elite sprinter who won honour and earned endorsements, fame and fortune by method of fraud. This series introduces Victor Conte into the picture.

Keane and Graham decided the best course of action was to argue points the prosecution made rather than call their own witnesses, and, on Tuesday, 2008-May-27 – when court resumed, they allowed the prosecution to rest its case.

Keane stated during his closing argument that Graham could only be found guilty if his statements made to Novitzky were “material to an ongoing investigation,” or the BALCO investigation. Keane said that because Heredia was not charged in the case, Graham's statements about Heredia were of no consequential value to an investigation of him or BALCO.

The prosecution, in its closing arguments, stated that Graham had, in fact, lied to keep investigators away from both him and Heredia. Heredia, Assistant U.S. Attorney Finigan stated, had been pinned as a drug connection with certain athletes, and speaking with Graham about Heredia was germane to the investigation.

Presiding Judge handed down a decision on the case of The United States v. Trevor Graham on 2008-October-21. After Graham having billed this one as a trial for the ages, with more revelations and skeletons to be revealed from behind closed doors, Graham received the lightest punishment of anyone yet involved in this case from within the athletics circle.

Trevor Graham, whose family has supported him throughout this trial and has been in his corner every step of the way, will have plenty of time to thank them as he spends the next 12 months in home confinement, and pay a $5.000 fine back to the government for his part played in the BALCO case. Graham, unlike Marion Jones and Victor Conte, will spend neither a minute nor a moment behind enemy lines – also known as prison.

Enter Victor Conte.

There are a lot of adjectives I’ve heard folks use to describe Victor Conte.

Words like “snake-oil salesman”, purported “liar” and “saviour of track and field” have all come back to recollection from the years since I’ve heard Conte’s name mentioned with nutrition products. I tend to describe Conte with the following Italian proverb: “He is not an honest man who has burned his tongue and doesn't tell the company the soup is hot.”

Conte may be a lot of things to a lot of people, however, truth be told, he is also a criminal – a man who was charged with 42 counts of steroid distribution and money laundering in connection with BALCO investigations, and convicted on two of those allegations thanks in large part to Trevor Graham.

Conte’s historical athletics persuasion has been beset with corruption and controversy, and he has left an indelible stain on the fabric upon which this sport has been carefully knit together despite his attempts to turn over a new leaf and help stop what he allowed to continue in motion when he joined in the spreading of performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.

Conte's back in business with a connection of “people who have won medals at World Championships and other elite people who have won at the same level in other sports – it’s best for them and me to keep their names out of it.”[1]

Calling Victor Conte the “mastermind” behind the deception created by the undetectable drugs known as THG and “the clear” – two drugs which were discovered after Trevor Graham provided a syringe to the UCLA laboratory Dr. Don Catlin previously managed – would feed an ego so consumed with self-admiration, that the heavens above would not be wide, nor deep, nor vast enough to contain this man’s sense of accomplishment in trifling those attempting to stay at a pace consistent – or better – than the drug cheats, and those who help them get away with it.

Graham, as you well know, turned in the drug for reasons understood to be anything but “doing the right thing”.

Conte says he was driven to create these drug regimes for athletes not by money but because of “the challenge,”[2] and further stated to the world:

Running a successful doping operation “was about much more than developing drugs and methods. It was a network of people; to win any war, you need intelligence. I had access to information from people that were inside the labs. I would find out what they were doing in terms of testing designer steroids.

“I know of an accredited lab in Europe that had an employee who was coming in at night and doing prescreening of urine samples for athletes – to help these athletes beat tests and monitor clearing times. What I’m saying is, it’s not about the drugs, it’s about knowing who’s doing what, when and where.”[3]

Conte made millions off of his legal nutritional products before turning over to the lure of developing performance-enhancing drugs, and following his bust and resurrection, Conte is back at it again.

Conte’s tongue could appear parched from inconsistencies and deception surrounding the BALCO testimony, but one component of truth remains through it all: The reality about Marion Jones’s steroids regime – a fact which took four years to prove – was verified as being authentic.

One consistent factor with Victor Conte’s testimony prior to – and after – Marion Jones’s self-confession was that Conte had asserted her guilt ever since the BALCO testimony began in 2003.

Marion Jones’s attorneys had categorically denied those accusations, but were not able to discredit Conte to the desired extent to which they had planned.

An excerpt of their attempts to paint Conte into a liar and as an un-trustworthy person unable to deliver the truth is found below.

Victor Conte is someone who is under federal indictment, facing serious prison time and has a record of issuing a host of contradictory, inconsistent statements,” Nichols said in a statement.

Victor Conte's allegations are not true and the truth will be revealed for the world to see as the legal process moves forward.”[4]

Conte was a suspect under federal indictment, however he was not facing serious prison time as Nichols suggested.

Legal experts – peers in the field to Nichols – anticipated Conte not receiving more than two years in prison if he were to be convicted of all charges in a trial.

Concerning Conte’s evidences of contradictions he is stated to have made, could not Nichols have provided common people following the events an idea of how far, how wide and how deeply wild and contradictory Conte was alleged to have been in his statements of athletes and their drugs-usage – particularly Marion Jones, and his subsequent denials of guilt.

Furthermore, with respect to revelations of the truth, was any unfavourable evidence ever uncovered to discredit the claims Conte was making, namely that Marion Jones was taking performance-enhancing drugs which Conte, himself, provided to her and witnessed her use?

Conte would not have been impeached as a witness based on what Nichols deemed to have been inconsistent testimony, because Conte did not make any variable statements under oath. Had Conte been forced to make statements under oath, he would have stated the same ones to which he made outside of the courtroom, namely that Marion Jones was, indeed, a doped athlete during her career – a fact to which she finally admitted and had been charged and found guilty to a certain degree.

Conte, when one listens to his voice, sounds sincere, seasoned, and a man with a story he’d like to tell calmly and collectively. A challenge facing the jury of public opinion is determining if Conte, despite his disfigured tongue, was at any point ever telling the truth – this despite the Marion Jones’s “confession”.

Later in the course of this series, you’ll read of past stars like Edwin Moses, Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram wishing upon a star that Conte would simply go away and stop convoluting the vision folks have of athletics.

Their attempts will be in vain, however.

Conte was cooperative and more than willing to talk when presented search warrant in 2003 by the IRS investigating money laundering suspicions conducted by BALCO. He provided information and access to files and records, as well as performance-enhancing drugs to two special agents in the absence of a formal search warrant – providing consent when the discovery find would be adverse to him.

Conte comes across as a person who is on the top of a hill enjoying a view over two sides of the mountain – one downhill side which has been traversed by athletes ahead of the game, and the uphill side being painfully climbed by those in pursuit of those individuals.

Conte has stated – in personal depositions and in writing – he has provided performance-enhancing drugs to certain athletes, Marion Jones and Gatlin included. Both Marion Jones and Gatlin had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, with Marion Jones’s “B”-sample test rendering inaccurate the “positive” A-test, and with her own confession thwarting her attempts to stave off Conte’s consistent allegations.

A deposition is generally a pre-trial discovery tool used by both prosecutors and defence teams to ascertain truth and the opposing party’s strategy. Typically, District Attorney Ryan’s office would have disclosed to Conte’s legal team materials and information they as prosecutors of the case possessed or that investigative agencies (the I.R.S. in this case) would have been in possession of – materials such as names and addresses of persons they had intended to call to trial; statements of all the defendants in Conte’s case; germane evidence which had been seized or obtained as part of the investigation of the subsequent 42 charges brought up against Conte; and any other permissible evidences.

Marion Jones’s homes were searched two days following Conte’s BALCO premises served search warrant, though it is not known if any evidence was seized in her homes.[5]

Marion Jones – as are other US citizens – was protected under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbade the authorities from an unreasonable invasion of her privacy. What the law did grant the authorities, however, was a warrant which was issued due to the belief established by factual information provided to them by Conte and the information they collected by means of evidences at the storage locker that there was probable cause to search her premises.

It is believed and understood that the reviewing magistrate used practical common sense given the totality of circumstances set forth in the affidavit and decided to issue a non-exploratory warrant for that search. The search warrant served also subjected certain items named in the affidavit to search and seizure as they were stated under oath before the magistrate to constitute evidence or the identity of a person who was participating in an offence – which could have been Conte.

Marion Jones had no charges raised against her at that point.

Conte is also attributed as stating he provided performance-enhancing drugs, specifically “the clear”, to other athletes apart from Marion Jones including baseball players Barry Bonds, Garry Sheffield and Jason Giambi – a claim which Conte rebuffed, stating his “confession” regarding those specific non-track athletes was fabricated.

What Conte has made known was that he provided both “the clear” and “the cream” to athletes to build athletic performance, and avoid test detection.

Conte maintains that he devised a plan for – and provided specific drugs to – Marion Jones and Kelli White, with White affirming those allegations publicly in Senate hearings and in her Grand Jury testimony, and also to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Conte has, in addition to specifically naming White and Marion Jones, stated that he gradually started to incorporate “the clear” into the programs of Chryste Gaines and also Alvin and Calvin Harrison, who began the program the summer before the 2000 Olympics. Alvin Harrison confirmed steroids use and a direct relationship with Conte in an ESPN interview 2006-August-9.

Moreover, Conte stated he provided Tim Montgomery, who was Marion Jones training partner, “the clear” to begin his drugs schedule when they met in Sydney during the Olympics.

Montgomery confirmed that claim – under oath, within his rights and unforced – during Grand Jury testimony.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Montgomery told the Grand Jury that “the clear” caused him tightness, and had a negative side effect of retaining unneeded water.

My results (in races) was horrible, a lot of people's was. A lot of people ran terrible on it.

Kelli White cramped up and do awful on it,” he continued. She was feeling the same side effects (and) Charlie Francis felt the same thing. He was like, they had another kid up there that was taking 'the clear' and he ran terrible.”[6]

An important implication to immediately recognise, which will be discussed later, is that Tim Montgomery had knowledge of who Charlie Francis was, and understood to the best of his knowledge what Francis was involved with, namely a littered past as a drugs proponent.

One other important fact here is that Montgomery, testifying before a group of 16-23 people meeting in secret outside of the defence – a group which could consider hearsay evidence and offer immunity[7], implicates White. The White-Montgomery connection, also to be further discussed in more detail, is a key ingredient to understanding Montgomery’s inability to conceal information from non-essential people outside his circle of influence.

Among other condemning statements Conte has made, on record, is that he has reprimanded Marion Jones for being careless, after she – according to Conte – once left a cartridge injector in a hotel room in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Conte states to ESPN The Magazine – the source of this information – that Marion Jones had again forgotten the cartridge injector a few days later in Eugene, OR.

After the first time she forgot it, she said she would put it in a sneaker and lean the sneaker against the refrigerator so she wouldn't forget it. Then she forgot the shoe. That injector had a thousand dollars' worth of growth hormone in it!

I couldn't afford to have Marion leave a growth-hormone injector in a room registered in her name.”[8]

Has Marion Jones ever provided a detailed rebuttal to this information stated by Conte? No, she has never done so, and following her confession, she still has not made such a claim to rebut his statement. And, having provided recognition to the world that she was a cheater during her career during this time, she would have had one more lie from which to unsuccessfully separate herself.

Has she ever provided a documented piece of evidence which would suggest that she was not in the same location as Conte on either occasion?

No. Again, it would have buried her further into the deception.

Has it been established on either side which dates these alleged instances were to have occurred?

Would Marion Jones have produced factual verification that she did not have a room registered to her in the time-frame had Conte provided the date for the said occurrence? Had either Marion Jones or her counsel hired a licensed private investigator to review the factual data provided in statements made by Conte, or did they rely on the results of Marion Jones’s polygraph test – which she has proven can be beat – to prove her innocence in part and in whole?


[1] The Times Online, “Up and running once more… the man who allowed cheats…” 2007-05-16 [2] ABC News, “BALCO Chief on Sports Doping Scandal”, 2004-12-03 [3] The Times Online, “Up and running once more… the man who allowed cheats…” 2007-05-16 [4] Associated Press, reprinted in ESPN.com “Statute of limitations may not apply”, 2004-12-08 [5] The Guardian, “Get Set for Biggest Dope Scandal Ever,” 2003-10-17 [6] The San Francisco Chronicle, “‘The clear’ reportedly sickened some athletes”, 2004-06-28 [7] Faculty.ncwc.edu, “Jury Duties and Instructions” [8] ESPN The Magazine, “Last Laugh”, 2004-12-20

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