US Olympic chief apologises to Australia

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MIAMI, Oct 8 (Reuters) The United States' Olympic chief apologised to the organisers and competitors of the 2000 Sydney Games after winner of five medals Marion Jones admitted to using steroids.

''We have written a letter of sincere and humble apology to the 205 national Olympic committees and in addition, a more extensive letter to the people in Australia, apologising to the organisers, the volunteers and the Australian people,'' said United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chairman Peter Ueberroth in a teleconference yesterday.

''This event should not be tarnished by what has happened,'' he added.

Ueberroth said the USOC ''sincerely apologised to athletes denied a podium place and denied the chance to hear their national anthem and see their flags.'' Jones won five medals in Sydney -- three of them gold including the prestigious 100 metres.

After confessing that she lied about her steroid use, Jones handed back her medals on Monday.

The USOC chairman said his organisation was making a pledge that the US team would be drug-free at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

''We pledge that the 2008 Olympic team will be completely clean -- that is our pledge,'' he said.

''There is never any absolute guarantee but that is our pledge...it is our clear endeavour and absolute priority.'' The USOC has also asked the other athletes who were in Jones's relays to hand back their medals.

REUTERS BJR KP1003

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