Story by Eric.
This is the ninth segment in a long series titled, "Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones".
I left you, the reader, off last time with a couple of important questions to ponder, namely: How did she (Marion Jones) put together a nearly undefeated season in 1998 – one which stretched her 36 competitions thin between the first and the final? If Graham, who was her coach, didn’t begin doping her until 2000, how did Marion Jones, who maintains to have not been doped, run the fifth-fastest 100m time in the history of the world and take home another world championship the preceding year in what was another very long and taxing series of trials, qualifications and finals?
There are many who state that Marion Jones was a gifted high school athlete who simply took a few years away from serious competition to focus on basketball; that, upon her return to the track, she simply needed to get re-tooled and sharpened to find her previous speed.
If one were to ask Marion Jones, this could all be neatly explained by her, I’m sure, but what she will never discuss with you, with me or even with authorities is that she failed an EPO test in June 2006 following a season in 2005 which was the worse of her career – slower and more humbling than her freshman high school days at Rio Mesa, when she was 14-years-old.
Her attorneys, in her defence – quoted and captured in this blog series, put the same spin on adverse matters concerning Marion Jones, citing issues with the test, itself. What they will not state to you is the duration of time between testing the “A”-sample and “B”-sample provided in Indianapolis, nor of those implications. What they will also not discuss is that their client was not fit in 2005, yet was somehow able to withstand the stresses of multiple rounds on multiple days in order to make post-season championship teams, which is one very mitigating factor in one’s taking EPO.
EPO, according to Victor Conte, increases the red blood cell count and enhances oxygen uptake and utilization. EPO provides a big advantage to sprinters, because it enables them to do more track repetitions and obtain a much deeper training load during the off season. EPO, states Conte, becomes undetectable about 72 hours after subcutaneous injection (stomach) and only 24 hours after intravenous injection.
In direct relation to that test failure, Marion Jones lied to the public about the circumstances surrounding the leaking of that test. That sequence of events was crafted in such a way as to have Marion Jones’s financial difficulties, namely foreclosure for breaking a promise to pay her mortgage – a result of “maintaining the lifestyle” – not become exposed to the general public. Marion Jones lied to the financial institution which granted her favour in loaning her more than two million dollars with a promise to repay them in selected, manageable instalments – something known to you and I as a mortgage, and she lied to you to cover up that lie as well.
Marion Jones is not a changed woman who is attempting to right the wrongs, ladies and gentlemen. She did, rather, spend the final days of freedom living in a cave in her own wilderness, though she did make a trip to a big city in October 2007 to talk a little bit of track, a little bit about lies, and to charge the atmosphere by crying on the small amount of electricity she was attempting to create with a half-remorseful story about finding God, wanting to live in peace and having made mistakes from which others could learn.
What many learned that day is questionable – a point Michael Johnson brought up following Marion Jones’s sentencing:
“But I question if Marion is really remorseful for anything other than having been caught and the consequences she now has to suffer...She stood before us all and accused USADA of conducting a kangaroo court in regards to their investigation of her. Marion only came clean about the steroid use as part of a plea deal in hopes of having her sentence on the perjury charges reduced.”
Folks heard what she said, saw what she did, but then they went home back to whatever it was they were up to on a Friday evening before “CNN” and “Fox News” carried the torch to the finish line in case anyone hadn’t become aware that Marion Jones was a self-confessed drugs cheat. The news came suddenly, but not surprisingly, and the shock value among people on the ground was hardly noticeable once the missile she shot off four years earlier had landed on an unintended trajectory – straight on her own head.
The brief statement Marion Jones passed off as contrition to please the court was meant to demonstrate to the authorities – folks who don’t know her entire story – that she had changed her ways and was not quite the scoundrel she had been made out to be by wicked old men who’d either divorced her, coerced her or just plan used her as a laboratory rat without her permission, though part of her sentencing is dependent on the degree of her remorse and regret.
Somewhere in the text of her message was something about letting people down and asking for her forgiveness from God Almighty.
Her postal code changed when the delivery truck, Felons on Wheels, made its stop in a neighbourhood far away and gave those on board a free pass to a place hardly known as paradise – but known to repeat offenders on board to be a stop somewhere between Soddom and Gemorrah.
Over the many years of Marion Jones’s professional life, as an athlete in the sport of track and field, many of Marion Jones’s fans – apologists – had begun to be fiercely disloyal and unsupportive towards her. Yet she treated knowledge and understanding – tantamount to their capacity to make sense of this entire mess – through the text of her message as though those gifts belonged in a postal code far beyond these same people’s collective reach – though some of them were doctors, lawyers and teachers of education to name a few.
Marion Jones stated that her reason for retiring from track and field was for her having made several mistakes. Being Marion Jones doesn’t exclude her from making them, and one can be forgiven for certain offenses committed against the body as well as hostile to the sport. Those mistakes were deemed to have impacted her fans, USATF and her family – though IAAF, a component of her fame and Nike, a part of her great fortune, were conveniently left out in the dark. The fault she committed, according to her statement, was in having lied to federal authorities – folks who don’t like being taken for a ride. She wanted the lesson of having lied to them to teach people that lying doesn’t pay.
Apparently drugs-taking, did pay, however, as she never mentioned having taken drugs, nor did she distance herself from the given fact that she pled guilty to obstructing justice in the BALCO case.
Conte, on the other hand, had plenty to say about the types of drugs Marion Jones took following her confession, despite his apparent stance behind her in her corner. Conte mentioned time and again throughout the course of time over the past four years that Marion Jones took drugs, and following her 2006 EPO revelation, made the expectant, “I told you so,” statement to the world.
He wasn’t slow in making the same point in 2007, either.
“Marion took both species of the clear,” Conte said in an e-mail. She took “Norbolethone from August 2000 until December 2000. She then used THG from January 2001 until September 2001.”
Marion Jones shed tears during the second minute of her 265-second aired statement, which was broadcast live on television in America, and shown via satellite around the world. She apologised for having let down people who’d supported her, naming a lie to Federal agents – something she deemed as being “stupid” – as being the reason she was in trouble.
The President of the International Association of Athletics Federations chimed in with mixed emotions concerning the confession.
“First of all, I am deeply disappointed that an athlete with Marion Jones' immense natural ability gave in to the corrupt, ‘get-rich-quick’ spin of a dope dealer like Victor Conte,” Diack told PA Sport.
“If she had trusted to her own natural gifts and allied them to self-sacrifice and hard work I sincerely believe that she could have been an honest champion at the Sydney Games.
“Now, instead, Marion Jones will be remembered as one of the biggest frauds in sporting history.
“It is a tragedy, and I am glad that Marion Jones is aware not only of the damage that her action caused herself and her loved ones, but also her fans, her country and her sport of athletics, both in the USA and all over the world.
“A lot of people believed in the achievements of Marion Jones and this confession leaves a bitter taste, and tarnishes the image of a sport in which a majority of athletes are honest and clean.”
Perhaps Diack could have been speaking from his heart – far down from the depths of his soul – rather than from his logic facilities when stating that he was “deeply disappointed that an athlete with Marion Jones’ immense natural ability gave in to the corrupt, ‘get-rich-quick’ spin of a dope dealer like Victor Conte.”
Marion Jones is believed to have possessed incredible talent at one stage in her life – during a time when she was a teenager with big ambitions to someday win the Olympics. Then Marion Jones grew up into the adult world, and she put more time in under gymnasium lights than under the glow of natural light on the athletics field, and, in having traded love for running for one of dribbling, shooting and scoring, she diminished her ability and capacity to run as she once had...as a teenager.
She re-emerged on the scene five years removed from being a precocious adolescent, and had had injuries and lack of focus on her with which to overcome during that stretch of time. She never re-gained even a semblance of her former self whilst at university, and, having made up her mind to suddenly give athletics one more go – now at the age of 22, she set forth on the course which has led to this very moment.
Graham and Conte were two of the means to the end, but this path was initiated with a plan. That plan had its genesis in 1997, and came to fruition in a timeframe which was a meagre, paltry and anorexic 13 weeks later.
Marion Jones had few close friends as a teen at Thousand Oaks High School during her two years with the team, but one person, Samantha (Clark) Hollister, enjoyed playing basketball and running track with her, and believes along the same line as others captivated by Marion Jones’s ability as a youth.
"I just feel awful that these things have happened to her and that she felt like she needed to do more in order to excel," Hollister said.
"She’s such a natural talent. . . . If there was ever anyone you met who you thought wouldn't have to do [steroids] to be a success, it was her. She was just so naturally gifted. She could have done any sport and won a gold medal, in my opinion."
Diack, like Hollister and so many other previous supporters have appeared to overlook that part, but they aren’t alone in believing that Marion Jones had the talent to succeed. That talent, however, was wasted away during four years of inactivity and heartache, injury and weight issues non-conducive to being a world-class sprinter – or any sprinter for that matter.
Marion Jones may have gathered a few more supporters in her corner with her declaration of guilt before the world, but as far as athletics was concerned, it was interested in hearing Marion Jones state she had taken undetectable performance-enhancing drugs and having lied about that to authorities is what caused her to fall into peril, not a short spiel about lying to authorities.
Even her old Thousand Oaks High School long jump coach, Jerry Sawitz, lamented the fact that Marion Jones had ended up in this state of affairs.
"She was just one of the most amazing athletes you're ever going to see.
"I mean, once-in-a-lifetime kind of athletes,” Sawitz said.
"I've seen her take a tennis ball and dunk it in a basketball hoop. I'd always defended her because what she was doing at 15 or 16; running the 100 meters in 11.1 (seconds) wasn't that much of a stretch from what she did on the world stage. I just thought it was a natural progression for a great athlete.
"But the Marion Jones you see today is a different person than the Marion Jones we knew in 1992. The Marion you see now is the result of a lot of poor decisions. It's really sad."
Marion Jones made an admission to those same family members and friends about having made poor decisions through a letter written to them – one which spread across the internet, but was unable to tell them in person when the cameras were rolling and live broadcasts were taping her every word.
Marion Jones would have had the greatest amount of exposure as a contrite person had she named drugs, her use of them, her cover-up, and offered to provide the IOC and IAAF the medals which she had won as an athlete who’d won those distinctions by way of fraud.
Instead, what the world received was what appeared to be one more in a line of prepared statements, crying queues and lack of substance by which to judge the veracity of the truthfulness meant to be implied by the words she chose to use to communicate her message.
One was simply awaiting a similar phrase as was stated in the courthouse, namely:
“I consumed this substance [THG] several times before the Sydney Olympics and continued using it after. By November 2003, I realized he was giving me performance-enhancing drugs.”
In hindsight, however, perhaps such a statement would have brought about boos, jeers, hisses and heckling in the crowd from someone who was wise enough to know that Marion Jones had again played victim and pulling a fast one over the senses.
So, the world was left with, “It is with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you I have betrayed your trust.” The great shame manifested here in this statement was that she again misinformed – deceived – those who were following the broadcast with their hearts and had reacted to her tears.
Three days later, however, she relinquished possession of her five Sydney Olympic medals, and had stated she was sorry to her teammates and competitors – though she never said so when she had the grand opportunity to have done so; this was reported as her having been sorry according to a source close to the case, not Marion Jones physically stating she was sorry.
Many of her former competitors could care less how ‘sorry’ Marion Jones has become. She robbed them of the opportunity to finish first, experience the rush of emotion which is stored up for special occasions such as the Olympic Games and world championships, and to hear their national anthems played in front of millions of people around the world – a true symbol that one had been elevated to the highest mountain and had been victor on the one day of one’s life when it most counted.
Russian Irina Privalova, who anchored her 4x400m team in Sydney to the bronze medal, could care less about trading in the bronze for a silver one.
"No, I'm not happy at all to get that silver instead of the bronze," Privalova, who retired after Sydney, was quoted as saying by the All Sport news agency.
"I’m not happy because Marion's admission to drug use is a real tragedy for our sport."
Some of her other competitors really laid into Marion Jones following the reported EPO test. Others stated that Marion Jones should go to jail following her acknowledgment of having lied to federal authorities, though it was about drugs with which her competitors had taken issue.
Others, including Richardson, stated simply that the entire matter was “sad”, and that due to the decision Marion Jones chose to make, she took the decision and choice away from the rest of her team, concluding that whether or not the IOC takes their team’s medals, the characters of the US team will forever be questioned.
And those of many future teams as well.