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Track star Marion Jones sentenced to 6 months

  • Story Highlights
  • Gold-medal runner will spend time in prison for lying about using steroid
  • Jones pleads with judge not to separate her from her children
  • Judge isn't moved: "People live with their choices"
  • For years Jones had publicly and angrily denied taking performance drugs
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WHITE PLAINS, New York (CNN) -- Olympic track star Marion Jones was sentenced in a federal court Friday to six months in prison, two years of probation and community service for lying to federal prosecutors investigating the use of performance-enhancing substances.

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Marion Jones was smiling when she arrived Friday at the courthouse, but her smile soon disappeared.

She said through her attorney that she would like to start serving her sentence as soon as possible, and Judge Kenneth Karas set March 11 as the "surrender date" unless a designated jail is able to accept her sooner.

Jones had pleaded guilty in October to charges of lying to a federal agent in 2003 about her use of steroids, and was sentenced on two counts -- getting six months in prison on the first count and two months on the second, to be served concurrently.

Before the sentencing, Jones broke down as she asked Karas not to send her to prison. "I plead with you to alleviate the situation by not separating me from my boys, even for a short period of time," she said.

But Karas noted that "athletes in society ... serve as role models to children around the world. When there is a widespread level of cheating, it sends all the wrong messages."

"People live with their choices," he added, "and the choice not to play by the rules has been compounded by the choice to break the law."

In a memorandum filed December 31 with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Jones' attorneys had argued that jail time was unnecessary because "any deterrent message to the public has already been sent."

But in court Friday, Karas said, "There are times when a sentence can have a deterrent factor."

In a presentencing hearing, Jones' lawyers -- citing her history of being a law-abiding citizen -- had argued that the track star, who was stripped of her Olympic medals after pleading guilty to charges of lying to a federal agent about her use of steroids and engaging in check fraud, should be given probation only.

Jones entered her guilty pleas in October and admitted she lied to a federal agent in November 2003 about her use of steroids. Video Watch Jones' earlier tearful apology »

"The guilty plea in this matter and the circumstances surrounding it have been a very painful and life-changing experience for Marion Jones-Thompson," said the memorandum.

"She has been cast from American hero to national disgrace. This part of her story will forever be one of personal tragedy. To be clear, the public scorn, from a nation that once adored her, and her fall from grace have been severe punishments. She has suffered enormous personal shame, anguish and embarrassment. She has been stripped of her gold medals, her accomplishments, her wealth and her public standing." Photo See photos from Jones' athletic career »

In addition, her attorneys noted that Jones has lost her livelihood, as "professional track and field is the only career Marion has ever known." There was no need, the attorneys claimed, to send her to prison, as she posed no threat to the public.

Jones told the court in October that her then-coach, Trevor Graham, first gave her steroids in 1999, telling her it was flaxseed oil. She said she took the steroid known as "the clear," or THG, from that time until 2001, including during her competition at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. Her admission contradicted years of public --- and often angry -- denials from her regarding steroid use.

In 2004, she filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Victor Conte, founder of BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative), marketer of THG, accusing him of trying to "destroy her career and reputation" when he said he supplied her with performance-enhancing drugs. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, and Conte in 2005 pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering.

A statement released by the U.S. attorney's office also outlined Jones's complicity in a multimillion-dollar check-fraud scheme. The money-laundering plot involved Olympic gold medalists Timothy Montgomery and Steve Riddick and more than a dozen others who attempted to defraud numerous banks by altering and counterfeiting checks. Jones originally claimed to have no knowledge of the scheme.

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USA Track & Field President Bill Roe issued a statement calling Jones's saga "a vivid morality play that graphically illustrates the wages of cheating in any facet of life, on or off the track."

"No one wanted to see this happen, and we hope that Marion and her family can move on as well." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jessica Kelly and Mythili Rao contributed to this report.

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