Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones: Vol. 43

Story by Eric.

This is the 43rd submission in a long series about Marion Jones, a former elite sprinter who won (stole) honour and earned (stole) endorsements, fame and fortune by method of fraud.

Los Angeles County police and sheriff officers have been known to employ “sweep” tactics during the course of arresting gang activity in plagued areas in South-Central Los Angeles. Anyone caught associating with those gangs – whether overtly or inadvertently – personally undergoes the stress and discomfort of an immediate loss of freedom.

Scared kids and those with outstanding warrants are typically the first to give way, turn and head for their nearest escape route when those brave men and women wearing either blue and green uniforms arrive in droves – each bearing a powerful weapon capable of inflicting gross bodily destruction.

There is an old axiom among the Welsh which states the following:

Adversity brings knowledge, and knowledge wisdom.” [1]

One can assume seasoned officers tied to those communities know the positive effects that the power of persuasion has over the more lawful-minded caught up in peer pressures, and that kids with no real criminal connections can be scared into turning back to a more moral path.

One would hope an adult athlete named Marion Jones could have understood the principle lesson being taught here, namely that difficulty concedes enlightenment, and enlightenment prudence.

However, to the contrary, Marion Jones demonstrated characteristics of one who lacked both knowledge and understanding, as bent the principle to read:

I’ve become enlightened, through determination, on the art of making things difficult for myself.

The world’s fastest woman has been very slow in her athletics life to run from calamity – demonstrating either a serious learning deficiency previously undetectable, or illustrating just how powerfully the fortress surrounding Marion Jones had been constructed before it self-destructed in October 2007.

Considering the information provided in Marion Jones See How She Runs, the logical conclusion is the latter of the above.

Marion's capacity for learning a skill or technique, and then practicing until she had mastered it, was one she never lost, and one that never failed to impress her coaches in high school, college, and beyond. [2]

The author of that book, Ron Rapoport, had choice words to say about Marion Jones in the days following her affirmation of guilt.

Jones says those of us who admired and believed in her have a right to feel angry and betrayed, and I suppose I do, a little. Mostly, though, I just feel sad. Sad that smiling golden girl who was cheered on tracks all over the world has made such a mess of things. Sad she traded her future for two bronze medals. [3]

Marion Jones had, rather than run from a hornet’s nest – that is to say, take flight from certain misfortunes and disasters, no matter the cost – stood firm with criminals and drug associates, been rounded up, had her fingers figuratively printed and dusted, and has seemingly been unfazed by this entire process. She seemed rather attracted to the tension and excitement.

Rather than having turned away from events which could cause stress and personal discomfort, Marion Jones had, by default, either welcomed those calamities or had simply accepted that their presence is simply the way it was – and would always be – despite any attempts she may make to stave them off.

Several of Marion Jones’s peers have taken steps – almost to the point of seeming paranoia – to ensure they avoid at all costs circumstance and opportunity which can generate the slightest appearance of being associated with drugs, and have taken every possible measure – again, verging on the border of mistrust – to ensure what they ingest, with whom they associate and which foods they consume are fully known.

Kelly Holmes, Paula Radcliffe and Carolina Klüft are three who immediately come to the fore with regard to with whom they associate and to what degrees they have spoken of to avoid being unwittingly contaminated. Gatlin had also been described as going to considerable lengths to not leave foods or water unattended.

Michelle Perry, an American 100m hurdler, was warned by her mother of the dangers of being contaminated by another athlete.

That’s why when my mom heard about Justin, she called and said: ‘Don’t leave your water bottles around! Don’t drink from anything that’s been open already!’ She was scared that somebody was going to do something bad to me. [4]

Tyson Gay, when discussing the “B”-sample test which exonerated Marion Jones, stated that athletes would be wise to steer clear of bad company.

I’m sorry that maybe it was a mistake that happened. But I believe that we as athletes have to stay away from people who are affiliated with drugs and also just try to stay away from anything that could possibly test positive. [5]

What these athletes have demonstrated is they take no risks in having something unfamiliar enter their systems and associate them with the possibility of being guilty should they test positive for drugs, as the IAAF has a strict liability rule which states that whatever goes in the body is the complete responsibility of the athletes. What Marion Jones had not been concerned with was that she contaminated herself on the outside – by reputation – by associating with known cheats and drug pushers. Taking a mere position of being drug-free was not on par with taking steps to appear drug-free, and Marion Jones – through her admittance of guilt – demonstrated this fact.

The United States government would very much have considered evidence from Marion Jones’s ex-spouse when it related to her reputation, as it does consider all matters concerning personal or family history among members of a person's family by blood, adoption, or marriage, or among a person's associates, or in the community, concerning a person's birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, death, legitimacy, relationship by blood, adoption, or marriage, ancestry, or other similar fact of personal or family history admissible evidence in court.

Marion Jones, upon sensing danger not once, but on three separate occasions – two being intimate partners, and a third being a dirty coach – didn’t take flight, though she has been one of the fastest woman in the world over a period of time. It has at best taken Marion Jones 10,65 seconds to run to glory, but has taken nine years to run from it. And the clock continues on forward, one second at a time, without regard.

I suppose one reason she has been slow to run away is that the 10,65 seconds she accomplished on the track was an impaired one, so no one really has any knowledge of just how fast Marion Jones is – not even she knows.

With the passing of every moment, Marion Jones had at times stopped in her tracks, taken a moment to ponder her situation, and had been very graceless and careless in her assessments.

Nobody has ever said anything about Marion Jones using performance- enhancing drugs, and they never will. I'm not really concerned about having to clear the air over this next year. I don't feel responsibility to have to warm up anymore to the crowd or to the fans or to the media because I'm quite happy with how I stand in the public's eye.[6]

That same attitude carried over in effect with her leaked drug test and exoneration, and died with her confession of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Her statement above could now be re-read and paraphrased as such:

Many people have said things about Marion Jones using performance- enhancing drugs, and they always will. I’m not really concerned about having to clear the air over this next year – or at anytime over my life. I don’t feel responsibility to have to warm up anymore to the crowd or to the fans or to the media because I’m quite happy with how I stand in the public's eye – despite being the perpetrator of such deliberate lies to that same public.

When news spread to Marion Jones that her “B”-sample test was not adverse, she stated she was ecstatic. She maintained that she was happy the test proved she was never a drug cheat. She had never, however, mentioned an appreciation to her fans of sticking around – not during the crisis, nor after it, effectively leaving them in the dark during her time of trial.

Marion Jones has to this day maintained a focus on self, and what she is able to control. She has been able to successfully wear two faces in the absence of having any self-respect, bringing about no loss of sense of responsibility to society and those who have supported her from the outside in; she has made concerted efforts to provide an appearance of having done so, but to the watchful eye, it has been done in vain.

Marion Jones knows what image she portrays to the public – even in the face of the greatest adversity she has ever known – and to her sponsors, and her coach (now former since she has retired from the sport – that is to say been banned for two years at her age) had stated to the athletics world just how important Marion Jones was to the sport.

Marion Jones, herself, had not been shy of her marketability, and she had taken plenty of opportunity to stand in the centre, basking in the attention.

It's obvious people want to see me. I can fill up stadiums. [7]

People have watched Marion Jones’s behaviours both inside and outside of the stadium, and they are starkly and contrarily opposed to another.

Other ways Marion Jones garnered the spotlight was by having made three guest appearances on “Late Show With David Letterman” (shows #1394, #1500 and #2221), as well as Arli$ (“Giving Something Back”) and “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel (episode #28). Marion Jones really did have her share of the spotlight – one “earned” by means of deception and fraud.

Marion Jones has also been featured in a charity book, America’s Athletes (2007), of which proceeds were to be donated to American troops serving around the world. America's Athletes is a mission of the “FairPlay Foundation”, and is purposed to assist professional athletes, celebrities among others in becoming more involved and giving back to enhance the community in which they live, play and serve.

Unfavourably, the impervious force field surrounding Marion Jones was built by her willpower to succeed at all costs – controversies and image notwithstanding. Her focus on being number one – to finish races quicker than her competitors – and to jump further than any challenger – cast her judgment, intuition and reasoning skills into murky waters, and in so doing, she was snagged at the bottom by things unseen.

When The New York Times discussed with Marion Jones how well she handles defeat, she responded:

I don't handle it very well and I'm not good at dealing with the time when I'm hurt and not competing, she said. On occasion, when I don't win, I have a chance to revert to ways I don't like. And I don't like myself when I'm not winning. I'm cranky, quiet and depressed until my next competition. [8]

If she had been a victim in each and every one of her noticeable shortcomings with choosing close men associates who have cheated with drugs, she had been in error when using her incisiveness and rationality to sense problems brewing on the horizon.

Marion Jones has taken her own self-portrait to create a personal reality – one, which up until her “A”-sample positive announcement, was one over which she maintained a semblance of control. Marion Jones has blocked out distractions to such a degree, that she has virtually failed to comprehend the magnitude to which her involvement with those distractions has caused even more turbulence.

I acknowledge that a number of major scandals, my name has been associated along with them. [9]

No, Marion Jones’s name was joined at the hip of the sport’s major scandal of all time.

[1] Welsh proverb

[2] Excerpted from Marion Jones, See How She Runs, Algonquin Books © 2000

[3] The Los Angeles Times, “The dream that needlessly cost Marion Jones,” 2007-10-09

[4] The New York Times, “Gatlin’s Drug Case Puts Concerns on the (Massage) Table”, 2007-08-28

[5] Track Profile Report #560, “World Athletics Final Notebook”, 2006-09-07

[6] Marion Jones conference call with reporters, 2004-02-03

[7] The Guardian, “Jones Returns in New Role As Also-ran”, 2005-05-29

[8] The New York Times, “Husband and Bodyguard Emerges as Top Shot-Putter”, 2000-07-16

[9] Marion Jones conference call with reporters, 2004-02-03

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