"If there is anything honorable in what she did, that was it," Godina says. "If those involved are going to find redemption, [coming clean] is the first step."
The admission allows White to slip to the background of the scandal, while Jones, the biggest star among the track athletes tied to BALCO, can't escape questions about it. She testified before the grand jury last year, and in April the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News reported that her name (along with those of 11 other U.S. track and field athletes) had appeared in a memo in the case listing athletes to whom Conte had allegedly told investigators he had supplied steroids, a claim his lawyers later denied. Also last month, The New York Times reported that a $7,350 check from her bank account had been written to Conte four years ago. ( Jones denies having used or purchased banned drugs; her lawyer says that the check was signed by Jones's ex-husband, former shot putter C.J. Hunter, who got a two-year ban for steroid use in 2000, and that Marion never knew of the payment.)
After winning the 100 and the long jump on Saturday, Jones complained that whatever she does these days "is front-page news. Everything. From winning gold medals to [my] divorce to coaching changes to testifying before the grand jury." She talks like someone fighting to protect her legacy and digging in her spikes for a battle with USADA. "Why are they trying to bring down athletes with no positive tests?" Jones said after competing on Saturday. "That is what we all want to know." She said she would file a lawsuit if the agency tried to bar her from Athens, and her lawyer sent a letter to USADA requesting a meeting to discuss what he called the antidoping agency's "witch hunt." The sides met on Monday in Colorado Springs.
In the past USADA moved against an athlete only after finding drugs in his or her system. But agency protocol allows it great latitude in proving the use of banned substances, and officials are relying on what they call "nonanalytical positives," which could include evidence from the BALCO investigation showing transactions between the lab and athletes.
Two lawyers for athletes who testified before the BALCO grand jury questioned whether some of USADA's evidence would be admissible in court and predicted athletes would take it that far, though precedent favors the agency. (A lawsuit filed against USADA last summer by runner Regina Jacobs, whose positive test for the steroid THG remains under review, was quickly dismissed in federal court.) Pound seemed to be warning those thinking of challenging USADA when he said, "A positive test is not the only form of evidence. Athletes think, If I don't test positive, you can't deal with me. Nonsense."
Promoters touted The Home Depot Invitational as a chance to "See Athens Before It Happens," but that slogan only seemed to underscore the biggest question facing the sport: How many of the U.S.'s best athletes will not see Athens at all?