Photo by LIONEL CIRONNEAU
GENEVA -- American sprinters who were stripped of their 2000 Olympics relay medals because teammate Marion Jones was doping won an appeal Friday to have them restored.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in favor of the women, who had appealed the International Olympic Committee's decision to disqualify them from the Sydney Games.
The court said the IOC and International Association of Athletics Federations rules in 2000 did not allow entire teams to be disqualified because of doping by one athlete.
The IOC said the ruling was "disappointing and especially unfortunate for the athletes of the other teams who competed according to the rules."
In Sydney, Jearl Miles-Clark, Monique Hennagan, LaTasha Colander Clark and Andrea Anderson were part of the squad that won gold in the 4x400 relay. Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry and Passion Richardson were on the 4x100 bronze medal squad.
All but Perry joined the appeal.
"The panel found that at the time of the Sydney Olympic Games there was no express IOC or IAAF rule in force that clearly allowed the IOC to annul the relay team results if one team member was found to have committed a doping offense," CAS said.
Now that the case is over, Richardson can relax, her medal safe and secure in a wooden frame at the home of her parents in Florida.
"It's been a long three years, a long hard fight," Richardson told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I wanted to believe they would do what was right, but there were some times where I wasn't as certain. Today, they did what was right."
Richardson spoke to Gaines and Miles-Clark and said that "everyone is extremely excited."
"Finally, the fight is over," Richardson said.
In 2007, Jones admitted she was doping in Sydney and also lost her individual golds in the 100 and 200 meters and bronze in the long jump. She spent about six months in a Texas prison in 2008 for lying about using performance-enhancing drugs and her role in a check-fraud scam.
She has since made a comeback in basketball with the Tulsa Shock of the WNBA.
"I've totally moved on," Jones told The AP on Friday in San Antonio, where the Shock were preparing to play the Silver Stars. "I'm moving forward."
Jones said she had not heard about the CAS decision and had not spoken to her former Olympic teammates recently. She declined further comment.
"She made some very poor choices. That's something she has to live with," said Richardson, who no longer has any ill will toward her former teammate. "We did what we were supposed to do and did it with fairness. You have to learn to forgive and forget."
The CAS panel of three lawyers acknowledged the ruling might be unfair to relay teams that competed "with no doped athletes" but added the decision "exclusively depends on the rules enacted or not enacted by the IOC and the IAAF at the time of the Sydney Olympic Games."
The CAS inflicted a further defeat on the IOC by ordering the Olympic body to pay 10,000 Swiss francs ($9,500) toward the athletes' legal costs.
Mark Levinstein, the Washington, DC-based lead attorney for the athletes, said there is still a lawsuit pending against the USOC.
"All they had to do was say, 'The rules are the rules, leave them alone,' and this didn't happen," Levinstein said in a phone interview. "To have your own national Olympic committee turn its back on you, it was sad."
The USOC issued a statement saying it respects the decision of the CAS.
"Although we continue to believe that the U.S. medals in the 4x100 and 4x400 meter women's relays were unfairly won due to Ms. Jones' doping, we have always recognized that the athletes who made up the U.S. teams might have a legal basis on which to defend these medals," said Patrick Sandusky, chief communications officer for the USOC.
"We are sorry that Ms. Jones' actions continue to have a negative effect on the world of sport and express our sympathy for all of the athletes who competed cleanly at the Olympic Games in Sydney and were damaged by Ms. Jones' poor decisions."
United States Track and Field president Stephanie Hightower and CEO Doug Logan said in a joint statement, "Although USATF was not a party to this case, we are sympathetic to any clean athlete who was robbed of something because of Marion Jones' cheating: competitors, teammates, fans and anyone who strives for fair competition."
The IOC has now lost two CAS rulings within five weeks involving Olympic medals stripped.
"What better confirmation of independence can you have than the baby you have created says no to you?" IOC president Jacques Rogge told The AP in New York. "We're disappointed that we lose the case, of course. But it strengthens us to say to the athletes, 'You can trust the Court of Arbitration. They are independent. They are free. They can rule against the IOC."'
Belarus hammer throwers Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan won their appeals last month against disqualification from the 2008 Beijing Games and regained their silver and bronze medals, respectively. Both had elevated levels of testosterone, but the CAS panel said tests were invalid because international laboratory standards in Beijing were not respected.
"The IOC will continue to enforce its zero tolerance policy in the fight against doping for the sake of the athletes' health and to ensure fair competition," the IOC said in a statement.
The CAS panel said it accepted the IOC's claim that Jones was possibly not the only U.S. runner doping in Sydney, and it was mindful that Gaines later served a doping ban for cheating in 2002-03 with the same designer steroid -- known as "the clear" -- that Jones used.
However, CAS warned that judging an athlete based on suspicion could "deliver a fatal blow to any serious fight against doping and the CAS's reputation."
The case involving the sprinters was heard over two days in Lausanne, Switzerland, in May, when the relay runners' legal team argued they should not be punished for cheating by Jones.
The panel agreed unanimously Friday that the IAAF's rule in 2000 was the decisive point.
The court also confirmed its own precedent set five years ago in a previous doping case involving U.S. relay runners at the Sydney Olympics. That panel determined that teammates of Jerome Young should not lose their 4x400 gold medals after he received a retroactive ban from 1999-2001 -- meaning he was technically ineligible to compete in Sydney.
Young's relay partners -- Michael Johnson, Antonio Pettigrew, Angelo Taylor, Alvin Harrison and Calvin Harrison -- won their appeal to CAS after the IAAF annulled their result.
However, the IOC ended up stripping the entire team of the medals in 2008 following the admission of doping by Pettigrew. The IAAF amended its rules in 2003 so that relay teams could then be disqualified if one member was caught doping.
The ruling Friday dashed the hopes of Jamaica's team of being upgraded from silver to gold in the 4x400 relay. Russia finished third and Nigeria out of the medals in fourth. In the 4x100, the U.S. edged France out of the medals.