“Jones Wants Lie Detector Test for BALCO Head”

Reuters correspondent Adam Tanner reports:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The lawyer for triple Olympic champion Marion Jones has challenged the indicted head of the BALCO laboratory to take a lie detector test after he alleged he had seen her taking performance-enhancing drugs.

The challenge comes a day after Jones sued Victor Conte $25 million for defamation, saying he had falsely accused her of doping.

“Today we challenge Mr Conte to take and make public a lie detector examination from a qualified, well-respected polygrapher,” Jones’s attorney Rich Nichols said in a statement.

“Marion Jones took, passed and made public a lie detector test, which confirmed what she has said publicly, what her then coach has reportedly said and what her doctor reported — she has never, ever used performance enhancing drugs.”

“To date, Mr Conte has not taken a lie detector test.”

Jones, the only woman to win five track and field medals at a single Olympics, is seeking to restore her reputation after the BALCO scandal cast doubt on her past achievements. The International Olympic Committee recently set up a disciplinary commission to investigate Conte’s allegations.

Conte, who faces charges of steroid distribution and money laundering, said this month in a U.S. television interview and article that he had supplied steroids to top athletes including Jones.

Her lawyer wants Conte to answer whether he ever saw her take performance-enhancing drugs and if he had leaked any grand jury testimony.

“It is easy to go on national television and, as the lawsuit states, make ‘false, ‘malicious’ and ‘misleading’ statements designed to do harm to Ms. Jones’ character and reputation,” Nichols said. “However, it is quite another matter to take a polygraph examination that will test whether one is a truthful person or an untruthful person who engages in deception.”

Conte, a former bass guitarist and then self-educated nutritionist who lives south of San Francisco, did not immediately respond to the latest challenge.

On Wednesday he stood by his statement that Jones had used performance enhancing drugs.

“This is nothing more than a PR stunt by a desperate woman, who has regularly used drugs throughout her career,” he said in an e-mail. I am telling the truth and Marion is lying.”

Conte, his deputy and two coaches are due to go to trial next year in the BALCO case that has also tarnished the reputations of athletes such as baseball’s Barry Bonds.

Unfortunately, Marion Jones’s passed polygraph examination proves nothing. Similarly, a polygraph examination of Mr. Conte would prove nothing. Polygraph testing has no scientific basis, has an inherent bias against the truthful, and yet is easily passed through the use of simple countermeasures that polygraphers cannot detect.

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