The suit, filed in the US District Court in San Francisco, charges that “Conte defamed Jones with malice, with intent to injure Jones in her character and reputation as one of the greatest female athletes of all time” because he was motivated by “a vendetta”.

Mr Conte has hit back at the move, saying in an email statement it is “nothing more than a PR stunt by a desperate woman, who has regularly used drugs throughout her career.”

“I look forward with all confidence to the court proceedings as I stand by everything I said on the ‘20/20’ special,” the statement added.

The multi-million dollar lawsuit is the latest development in a constantly unravelling doping scandal surrounding Mr Conte’s San Francisco-area lab, Balco, which has tainted a number of high profile athletes including American baseballer Barry Bonds.

The Jones lawsuit said that the amount demanded reflected the possible loss of income Ms Jones may suffer from competitions, promotional appearances and sponsorships.

The spotlight has been on Ms Jones since early December when Mr Conte told the ABC television’s 20/20 programme in the US, that he had supplied her with several banned drugs before she won five Olympic medals – three of them gold – at the Sydney Games in 2000.

Ms Jones has admitted to taking Balco’s legal ZMA mineral supplement from 1999-2001, but has vigorously denied taking any steroids.

In her lawsuit, she said she had turned down Mr Conte’s efforts to endorse the ZMA product.

Mr Conte, however, claims he personally instructed Ms Jones on how to use illegal steroids and watched as she injected herself in the leg with the substance.

Ms Jones’s lawsuit, however, notes that Mr Conte had previously said he did not provide her with banned drugs and suggests that his “sudden about-face on the issue, just four months before his criminal trial is anticipated, appears motivated by a desire to curry favour with prosecutors, garner sensationalised media attention, bolster Conte’s own financial and other self-interests, and harm an individual against whom Conte has a long-standing grudge

The revelations by Mr Conte, who is himself facing federal US charges of trafficking in steroids, have prompted the International Olympic Committee to open an investigation into the doping allegations against Ms Jones.

Ms Jones, who failed to win a medal at this year’s Athens Olympic Games, has repeatedly denied using banned drugs and has never failed a doping test.