Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones: Vol. 23

Story by Eric.

(This is the 23rd part of a long series titled, "Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones". This series depicts the life and times of a (former) woman sprinter whose lies and cover-ups about doping in sport continue even through this day.)

If it may it please the court of public opinion to provide a simple recount for those of you who may be suffering the partial illness known as “some timers” disease, let it be known that:

Marion Jones was a young woman with top-25 world-ranked 100m/200m times in high school who made a decision to divide her interests between basketball and her two premier events during her first two years of university competition. Marion Jones remained connected to a semblance of success by using “natural talent” in the long jump to climb out of a relatively disastrous first two full years at North Carolina.

Marion Jones stayed an additional year away from the sport all together in 1996, only to return one sunny day (perhaps not, but allow for the hyperbole) in April 1997 and began training for an attempt to win an individual sprint event at the 6th IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Athens, Greece – an event which she had never partaken.

Marion Jones’s career had the following statistical breakdown up through her University of North Carolina days prior to her switch of coaching allegiances to Trevor Graham:

· 1991: Marion Jones ran 11,17/22,76, (#16/18 in the world).

· 1992: Marion Jones ran 11,14/22,58, (#18/17 in the world).

· 1993: Marion Jones had zero top-25 marks

· 1994: Marion Jones had zero top-25 marks

· 1995: Marion Jones had zero top-25 marks

· 1996: Marion Jones had zero top-25 marks [1]

Following a high school career in which no competitor was able to defeat her in an individual event after her grade-9 season, Marion Jones failed to qualify for the NCAA finals in her two best events – the 100m/200m – during her first two track seasons. She then took time off from the sport due to injury, only to come back two years later – four (4) long years after her last “major” final (IAAF Outdoor World Junior Championships while a high school student), and won two finals in 1997 at the United States Track and Field Championships – her first two USA national titles; 13 weeks of time must have been sufficient to prepare for sprint work and long jump work as well, as she stated above that she had not had sufficient training two years earlier for the same events.

Marion Jones continued her exploits that season by finishing first at the 1997 IAAF World Championships – winning the global 100m title with the second-fastest finals time (10,83) ever recorded. She ran an 11,09-10,96-10,94 in the three races over the 24 hours leading up to the final – the second such time she’d accomplished sub-11 in a semi-final that season.

Gail Devers, who won the title four years earlier, had the fastest winning time, 10,82, in all previous championship finals.

Marion Jones also ran the second leg on the 4x100m, with Chryste Gaines leading off, Marion Jones handing to Inger Miller, and Gail Devers anchoring; the team ran the 2nd-fasest time ever recorded at 41,47 seconds – beating Jamaica by 0,63 seconds.

Marion Jones also ran three non-windy sub-22,00 200m races – including a world-leading 21,76 (-0,8 m/s) in Zürich in 1997 – the 10th-fastest person in existence at that point. These were her first times under the 22-second barrier in her lifetime.

When all was said-and-done in the late summer of 1997, Marion Jones was ranked number one female athlete in the world by Track & Field News, was selected IAAF Female Athlete-of-the-Year, and earned five-straight C.C. Jackson Awards presented by USATF.

Denmark’s Wilson Kipketer, who twice lowered Sebastian Coe’s long-standing 800m mark of 1.41,77 – running 1.41,24 and 1.41,11, was selected 1997 IAAF Men’s Athlete-of-the-Year.

When I started the European circuit this summer, it seemed so crazy, just being over here,” she said. Then it all became clear to her, as she fingered the gold medal hanging from her slender neck. “As long as you're running fast,” she said, “life is good.” [2]

For good comparative measure, two of Marion Jones nemesis at the 1992 World Junior Championships, Cathy Freeman and Merlene Frazer, stayed dedicated to the sport, and found relative improvement in their events. Freeman improved from the 11,87/23,09 credentials she had when she faced Marion Jones to 11,24/22,25 by the time she’d face her five years later. Frazer improved from 23,19 down to 22,65/51,18 by the time she and Marion Jones were to race again.

Freeman competed in the 1992 Olympics, tripled in the 1995 World Championships, and doubled in Atlanta (200m/400m). Frazer competed in the 200m at the 1993 World Indoor Championships, and 400m in the 1995 World Championships, and 1996 Olympic Olympics.

Marion Jones continued upward on her flight away from reality in 1998 by equalling the American indoor 60m record – 6,95 seconds – in Maebashi on 1998-March-7. Only one other person in the history of the event, Russian Irina Privalova, had ever run faster; Gail Devers set the American record of 6,95 seconds in Toronto in five seasons earlier during Marion Jones’s absence from the world of athletics.

Marion Jones’s season high accomplishment was a 100m/200m World Cup (10,65A/21,62A) double victory – times which were not simply new personal bests for Marion Jones, but world-leading and all-time placement marks. Eighteen times she broke the 11,00 barrier within the +2,0 m/s wind limits (though she recorded a 10,71 and 10,72 at the USATF meet in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on 1998-June-19 and the following day in exactly +2,0 m/s winds), with her final 20 races all at or under 10,90 seconds, and 11 of her 21 finals under 10,80 seconds.

There was still no sign of “the clear” at this point according to Marion Jones.

Moreover, she became the first woman in 50 years to win the 100m/200m/Long Jump at the USA Championships, and the first athlete in 15 years since Carl Lewis won the triple in 1983. In the summer of 1998, newspaper reporters were predicting Marion Jones would be a triple world-record holder (100m/200m/Long Jump).

Coaches like HSI sprint coach John Smith had also chipped in stating that Marion Jones had a chance to hold several world records, but then it is not inconceivable that Smith understood the reason why Marion Jones could have threatened world records; more on that later.

Four more times in 1998 Marion Jones dipped under 22,00 seconds in the 200m – including a 21,80 Goodwill Games Record (the 100m victory netted her $40.000) six weeks before her World Cup victory.

So compelling was her resolve to win that Marion Jones nearly went undefeated in 1998, winning 35 of 36 competitions in four different events. Marion Jones’s sole loss of the year was a defeat to Heike Drechsler in the long jump (7,07A to 7,00A) at the year’s final competition – the World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa.

By winning all of her Golden League events, she took a share of the 1998 $1.000.000 jackpot ($333.333), and won $200.000 for the 1998 Women’s overall Grand Prix title, $50.000 for winning the Grand Prix final (Zhanna Pintusevich-Block, her only main rival in the race, was disqualified for false starting) and another $50.000 for winning the long jump there as well. Not only had her bank account been padded with winnings earned throughout the season, the demand for Marion Jones to compete on a track near you shot up considerably as well.

Marion Jones was selected 1998 IAAF Woman Athlete-of-the-Year, her second-consecutive accomplishment. Haile Gebrselassie, who set four world records, was selected Men’s Athlete-of-the-Year.

Those whose athletics denial heartbeat were, by some supernatural event, still alive – aided only by a life-support called naivety, could stretch their imagination to the extent that one could have contended that Marion Jones – based on pure athletic dexterity, fortitude and drive (she wrote on a school chalkboard in 1988 - after seeing Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Griffith-Joyner win gold: “I want to be an Olympic champion”) came back to life when she was able to overcome injury and find a good coach.

That coach, however, would later prove to be a liar, a cheat and, like Marion Jones, a convicted felon.Nothing, they felt, should have hindered this steadfast athlete with a new found love of her sport from having repeated as IAAF World Champion in the 100m dash in 1999 – a venture she perfected by running 10,70 seconds – the fastest-ever time ever run at the World Championships, and equalling the 4th-best ever run in the entire history of the sport; only Florence Griffith-Joyner, with an =WR (10,70), a WR (10,49) and two times inferior to her USA Olympic Trials victory time (10,61 and 10,62) had ever run faster.

Marion Jones fast-forwarded through the winter of 1999 and continued at the same hurried pace she was on in 1988. Marion Jones didn’t face so-called “junkyard replacements” on the track in 1999, as nine other women that summer broke 11,00 for 100m – the USA’s Inger Miller (10,79), the runner-up to Marion Jones at the World Championships in Seville, owning three of the top-10 times in the world; Marion Jones had five of the fastest 10, and four of the top five.

Marion Jones had marks of 11,22-6,81m-10,76 (meet record) on the first day of the IAAF World Championships, and followed those performances up with 10,83-10,70 (meet record) the following day, on Sunday, 1999-August-22. She finished with a bronze in the long jump (22-5/6,83m), and failed to finish her 200m semi-final following what she stated were back spasms which were to keep her out indefinitely – including the Van Damme Memorial in Bruxelles, ending her bid to win a second-consecutive share of the $1.000.000 Golden League jackpot.

Not to worry, her agent, Charlie Wells – another convicted criminal, stated, because Marion Jones would come back stronger the following year – an Olympic one – with hopes to win gold medals in the 100m and 200m, the long jump and both sprint relays, the 4x100m and the 4x400m – a feat un-rivalled in an international athletics competition, let alone the Olympic Games.

Marion Jones did become stronger the following season – just as Wells had indicated by a stroke of genius. Marion Jones rebounded and continued on her journey by stealing by fraud two individual Olympic sprint gold medals, running 10,75 and 21,84 – her fastest two times of the year – the final one on the 2000-September-28. She embezzled the sport in stealing one more gold medal in the 4x400m relay (3.22,62), and pilfered bronze medals in the long jump (6,92m) and 4x100m relay (42,20 seconds) – all times, marks, places and honours which have gone up in smoke due to her statement of guilt and annulled by decision of IAAF Council.

The performances would have been excellent in-and-of-themselves, but what was astonishing was that Marion Jones demonstrated an incredible display of endurance not just for the events in which she competed at the Olympics – including long jump rounds and number of attempts, but for having recorded such times after such a long season; Marion Jones competed in 10 running events including preliminaries and finals, and two long jump competitions – a preliminary and a final.

She also ran 11 more sub-11,00 times in a season.

[1] Statistics: Brinkster.com
[2] Sports Illustrated, “Speed Demons”, 1997-08-11

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