October 6, 2007 / 12:22 AM / in 10 years

BALCO founder says Jones victim of corrupt system

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Disgraced Olympic sprinter Marion Jones is a victim of a corrupt system that has existed for decades, the convicted BALCO laboratory founder at the centre of sport’s biggest doping scandal said on Friday.

“The athletes are not the only ones who are responsible for the history of rampant drug use at the elite level of sport,” Victor Conte told Reuters.

“Those who have made the majority of the money from Olympic as well as professional sport must also take responsibility for the drug culture that exists,” Conte added.

Jones, at one time the biggest female name in athletics, pleaded guilty in a New York court on Friday to lying to federal investigators.

She admitted to using steroids, which could cost her the five medals she won in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She announced her retirement from the sport after the hearing.

Until Friday Jones had repeatedly denied using performance-enhancing drugs to boost her career, even though Conte had accused her of such on national television.

But Conte, who served four months in prison for his role in the BALCO scandal, said athletes deserve only part of the blame for the doping problem.

“It’s a collective problem,” he said.

”In a sense, Marion Jones is a victim of a corrupt system that has existed for decades. This must be acknowledged if positive change is to occur any time soon.

He added: ”I‘m very sad for Marion and her family. I‘m sure their pain is great.

”All of us have made poor decisions in our lives and suffered the consequences as a result. Marion is no different than many others who have done the same but were able to easily beat the inept anti-doping system in place.

“Hopefully, those with the necessary money and power will acknowledge their share of responsibility and help to create a more genuine level playing field.”

Writing by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina

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