New York:Marion Jones admitted to doping before the 2000 Olympics in a recent letter to close family and friends, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Jones, a 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, the newspaper reported. Graham told her it was flaxseed oil.
"The clear" is a performance-enhancing drug linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), the lab at the center of a US government doping investigation.
Until now, Jones had steadfastly denied she ever took any kind of performance-enhancing drugs.
To appear in court
Jones is scheduled to appear in US Southern District Court on Friday to plead guilty to charges in connection with her steroid use, a government law enforcement source told The Associated Press.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, and would not provide specific details about the plea.
"I want to apologise for all of this," the newspaper reported, quoting a person who received a copy of Jones' letter and read it to the paper. "I am sorry for disappointing you all in so many ways."
No one answered the door at Jones' Austin home and a message left by the AP for a phone number registered to her husband, Obadele Thompson, was not immediately returned.
"It's funky, because you wanted to believe she was clean," said Jon Drummond, a gold medalist in the 400 relay in Sydney.
"It's like that old saying, 'Cheaters never win.' So no matter how glorious or glamorous things look, you'll get caught and pay a price for it.
"It caught me by total surprise," he added. "It's a shock. I thought it was a closed case. It doesn't help track and field at all, except maybe by letting the world know, people always get to the bottom of things. We shouldn't be afraid of the truth, but it's sad it came to this."
Could cost medals
The admission could cost Jones the five medals she won at the Sydney Olympics.
Though she fell short of her goal of winning five gold medals, she came away with three and two bronzes and was one of the games' biggest stars.
But her career has been tarnished by doping allegations since then. She was one of several athletes, including former boyfriend and ex sprint world record holder Tim Montgomery to testify before a grand jury in San Francisco investigating BALCO.
Montgomery was given a two-year ban for doping in late 2005.
In December 2004, the International Olympic Committee opened an investigation into doping allegations against Jones.
And last year, a Jones urine sample tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug EPO but she was cleared when a backup sample tested negative.
Jones sued BALCO founder Victor Conte in 2004 for $25 million after he told a national television news programme that the sprinter used designer steroids, human growth hormone and other illegal performance enhancers before and during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Conte said he taught Jones how to inject human growth hormone during an athletics meet in 2001.
He said he also held conference calls with Jones and Graham where the three of them discussed Jones' "doping" regimen.
"Jones has never taken banned performance enhancing drugs," the sprinter alleged in her defamation lawsuit.
"Jones took and passed over 160 separate drug tests, including five different drug tests at the 2000 Olympics."
The pair settled the lawsuit in 2005 for an undisclosed amount.
"It cost me a lot of money to defend myself," Conte said on Thursday. "But I told the truth then, and I'm telling it now."
Former coach helped
Jones' former coach Graham helped launch the government's steroid probe in 2003 when he mailed a vial of "the clear" previously undetectable to the US Anti-Doping Agency.
He was indicted in the BALCO case last November on three counts of lying to federal agents. He has pleaded not guilty, and a trial is set for Nov 26.
A woman who answered the phone at Graham's home in Raleigh, North Carolina, declined to identify herself, but said Graham was not home before refusing to answer any other questions.
There was no answer at the door of Graham's north Raleigh home on Thursday.
The Washington Post also reported that in her letter, Jones said she lied about a $25,000 cheque given to her by Montgomery, who pleaded guilty in New York this year as part of a multimillion-dollar bank fraud and money-laundering scheme.
Jones' former agent, Charles Wells, and coach, Steven Riddick, were also part of the conspiracy.
Court documents filed in New York show that Jones received the cheque from a man who prosecutors have accused of enlisting friends and business partners to help launder the proceeds of the multimillion-dollar plot.
The money was drawn on an account established with one of $5 million (euro3.54 million) worth of stolen, forged or doctored checks that investigators said the conspiracy attempted to cash over three years.
Though Jones told investigators she knew nothing about the cheque, the Post reported that she said in her letter that Montgomery told her it was from the 2005 sale of a refurbished vehicle and was partial payment for $50,000 she had loaned him.
"Once again, I panicked," the Post reported. "I did not want my name associated with this mess. I wanted to stay as far away as possible."
In her prime, Jones was one of ahtletics' first female millionaires, typically earning between $70,000 and $80,000 a race, plus at least another $1 million from race bonuses and endorsement deals.