Disgraced track star Marion Jones, who returned her Olympic medals last year in a stunning admission of steroid use, was sentenced on Friday to six months in prison for lying to investigators about the performance-enhancing drugs.
The judge sentenced Jones despite her plea that he not separate her from her two sons, "even for a short period of time."
"I ask you to be as merciful as a human being can be," she said.
Jones, 31, cried on the shoulder of her husband after learning her fate.
The sentence in a White Plains, N.Y., federal court follows her tearful guilty plea in October to using banned performance-enhancement drugs. At the time, she apologized, retired and gave back her five Olympic medals. Jones also admitted then that she lied about a check-fraud scheme.
Her attorneys petitioned District Judge Kenneth Karas for a sentence of probation or perhaps home confinement rather than jail time, arguing that she had been punished enough.
Karas, however, asked her lawyers to advise him about whether he could go beyond the six-month maximum that was suggested in her plea deal. He also wanted to know whether he could sentence Jones separately for the steroids and check-fraud convictions. Both sides advised against it.
Jones was once among the most celebrated female athletes in the world. A runner and long jumper, she won three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Those victories were achieved with the help of steroids — although she told a federal investigator in November 2003 that she didn't use any.
Jones was among athletes who testified before a grand jury in 2003 in an investigation into BALCO, a lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports. She also sued BALCO founder Victor Conte after he repeatedly accused her of using performance-enhancing drugs and said he watched her inject herself.
But at her October plea, prosecutors said that a 2003 search warrant at BALCO uncovered ledgers, purchases, doping calendars and various blood-test results connected to Jones and former coach Trevor Graham.
She later confessed to doping "several times before the Sydney Olympics and continued using it after."
Jones returned her Olympic medals — gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 1,600-meter relay; and bronzes in the long jump and 400-meter relay — before the International Olympic Committee ordered her to do so and wiped her records from the books.
She also confessed that she lied about knowledge of Tim Montgomery's involvement in a scheme to cash millions of dollars worth of stolen or forged checks. Montgomery is the father of Jones' older son.
Montgomery and several others have been convicted in that scam. They include former Olympic champion Steve Riddick, who was to be sentenced later Friday.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press