SALVO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Former U.S. sprinter Marion Jones left a federal facility in Texas on Friday after serving a six-month sentence for lying to prosecutors about steroid use that helped her win five medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“My joy at being reunited today with my husband and two sons is beyond words,” Jones said in a statement released to Reuters by her attorneys.
“This life-altering journey has been difficult but my faith in God and the support of family, friends and fans around the world have sustained me,” the 32-year-old Jones added.
“I am deeply grateful for the prayers, letters and e-mails sent over the last six months.”
Jones, who lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, former sprinter Obadele Thompson, said her focus would now be on her family. She asked that their privacy be respected.
Jones left a minimum-security facility in San Antonio at 8 a.m. CDT (9:00 a.m EDT), a prison spokeswoman said.
For years, Jones denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but pleaded guilty last October to two charges of perjury and was sentenced in January by a federal judge in New York. Jones reported to prison in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 7 and spent most of her sentence there.
She admitted she lied to federal investigators in 2003 when she denied knowing that she took the banned substance tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, known as “the clear,” before the 2000 Olympics. The steroid was at the center of the BALCO doping scandal that has involved athletes from track and field, baseball and American football.
Jones was stripped of her five Olympic medals, three of which were gold, and all of her performances as of September 2000 were erased from the record books.
Victor Conte, founder of the California-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, said on Friday he hoped Jones would help young athletes in the future.
“Marion Jones deserves an opportunity to redeem herself for the mistakes she has made in the past,” Conte, who spent four months in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering, said in an e-mail to Reuters.
“I’ve made similar mistakes, so I know first-hand how difficult it has been for Marion and her family,” Conte added. “Hopefully, she can find a way to help young athletes of the future to make better decisions than she made.”
Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Peter Cooney