NEW YORK (CBS/AP) For years, Marion Jones angrily denied using steroids. Today, she admitted it was all a lie.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators when she denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is calling for Jones to immediately return the five Olympic medals she won while she was using steroids. Jones is scheduled to be sentenced on the federal chargesJanuary 11th. Prosecutors have suggested they'll seek a maximum of six months in jail.
It was a stunning fall from grace for Jones, once the most celebrated female athlete in the world. She captivated the country with the audacious goal of winning five gold medals at the Sydney Olympics. Though she fell short - three golds but two bronzes - her charm and winsome smile made her a star.
Seven years later, she is broke, her reputation is ruined and she is looking at prison time.
Dressed in a dark suit and pink shirt, Jones was somber when she arrived at U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., with her mother and her attorney, biting her lower lip as reporters and cameras swarmed her. Her mother stumbled at one point but got up and accompanied her daughter inside, where she was fingerprinted and processed before the hearing.
Seated at the defense table and speaking in a clear voice through a microphone, Jones admitted to doping and said she lied about it to investigators in 2003.
She said she was told by her then-coach Trevor Graham that she was taking flaxseed oil when it was actually steroids.
"By November 2003, I realized he was giving me performance-enhancing drugs," she told the judge.
She also pleaded guilty to a second count for lying to investigators about her association with a check-fraud scheme. She was released on her own recognizance and was due back in court Jan. 11 for sentencing, when she faces a maximum of five years on each count and a fine of $250,000.
Jones also apparently sent family and close friends a letter in which she said she used steroids before the Sydney Games. The Washington Post was the first to report that Jones would come clean on doping.
"I want to apologize for all of this," the Post reported Jones saying in her letter, quoting a person who received a copy and read it to the paper. "I am sorry for disappointing you all in so many ways."
Jones said in her letter that she faced up to six months in jail and would be sentenced in three months, according to the newspaper.
The admission also could cost Jones the five medals she won in Sydney, where she was the most celebrated female athlete of the games. She didn't win the five golds she wanted, but she came away with three and two bronzes, and her bright smile and charming personality made her a star.
In December 2004, the International Olympic Committee opened an investigation into doping allegations against Jones.
"Progress to date has been slow due the difficulty of gathering findings," IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said. "The information that Marion Jones might provide later on today may prove to be key in moving this case forward."
Under statute of limitations rules, the IOC and other sports bodies can go back eight years to strip medals and nullify results. In Jones' case, that would include the 2000 Olympics, where she won gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 1,600-meter relay and bronze in the long jump and 400-meter relay.
In addition to any jail term, Jones could face a long competition ban from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The International Association of Athletics Federations said it was waiting for official notification from USADA setting out the details of Jones' reported admission.
If she admits to having been on drugs during a specific period, the IAAF could strip Jones of all her medals and results from the world championships and other events from that time. She won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 1999 and 2001 worlds.
"Our rules are clear if she confesses," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said.
No one answered the door at Jones' home in Austin, Texas, Thursday evening, and a message left by the AP for a phone number registered to her husband, Obadele Thompson, was not immediately returned.
The triple gold medalist in Sydney said she took "the clear" for two years, beginning in 1999, and that she got it from former coach Trevor Graham, who told her it was flaxseed oil, the newspaper reported.
"The clear" is a performance-enhancing drug linked to BALCO, the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports. Home run king Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi and Detroit Tigers outfielder Gary Sheffield all have been linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and were among more than two dozen athletes who testified before a federal grand jury in 2003.
Bonds denied ever knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs, saying he believed a clear substance and a cream, given to him by his trainer, were flaxseed oil and an arthritis balm.