Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones: Vol. 26

Story by Eric.

(This is the 26th 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.)

Nearly two entire years after giving birth for the first time, and having had five successive, uninterrupted, dedicated seasons full of training and racing, Marion Jones ran out of luck and could not break 55 seconds (55,03) for 400m in a race at Mt. Sac in the 17th day of April 2005, this despite the fact that Riddick, her fourth coach in less than three years, predicted a week earlier that Marion Jones would run “under 50 seconds”, and added the day of the race that “Marion is in fantastic shape.” [1]

As a matter of fact, she lost three of four races in 2005 against very mediocre competition, running 11,29 for second in Hengelo on 2005-May-29; 11,67 for second place in Milano on 2005-June-1; and cutting her 100m season short with a fourth-place 11,40 in Monterrey 10 days later at a competition which she determined prior to the race, “it’s time to put it all out there” [2].

Her performances were so inferior that they cast even further doubt on how Marion Jones achieved her previous marks in such a short period of time, and with so much full-time work missed on the track.

Her luck didn’t bottom out in the Mexican deserts, however – as much as she may have hoped they would have.

Marion Jones, following two trial runs at the USATF National Championships two weeks later – both at the straight-away distances of 100m – packed up her season and walked away from the championships citing an injured strained hamstring – a claim she apparently made through associates. Marion Jones did then what she did at Mt. Sac and again in Zürich: she ran away without explanation.

Comparing the Marion Jones of 2005 against the 1997 model, one understands and comprehends that Marion Jones was to have had more going for her in 2004 in a comeback following childbirth – age, maturity and a steady background with less time off – than she did upon her 1997 return, where she had a pocket-sized time frame of 13 weeks of training to pull off a major feat at her national championships.

Marion Jones claimed that her loss of form was due to the birth of her son in June 2003, and asserted that she was still recovering her level of strength in the 2004-2005 seasons despite working out nearly every day during the pregnancy. Riddick, on the other hand, used the pregnancy as a basis for Marion Jones’s 2006 strength, stating that the pregnancy made a better athlete out of Marion Jones and contributed to her exceptional rise back to the top. [3]

Marion Jones bottomed out in the 2004-2005 seasons, having risen straight to the top only to disappear, and then struggle mightily upon her intended comeback. She was a desperate person facing desperate times – much of it which would bottom her out financially in 2006.

Considering the hoops through which Marion Jones was forced to jump in the form of pregnancy and steroids accusations which followed, has there been any other athlete on the face of this planet who had performed nearly as remarkably as Marion Jones had after four years with the absence of top-25 world marks and then subsequent time away from the sport? Has any single, solitary person on the face of the earth ever been able to shift gears from has been to world-beater in no-time flat?

Marion Jones, the owner of Olympic and world titles by method of fraud, said it was all a matter of hard work and having had talent.

If you really want to do research, you can just look at my improvement. When I've run faster and when I've run slower, that it's all in line with an athlete that's just working hard and that is talented.” [4]

One problem with this statement is that Marion Jones went from naught to 41-straight 100m victories against the best athletes in the world without ever slowing down, and should have begun with diminished talent due to a lack of competition and training when she brought it all to the line. She competed in a sport and in a specific event which requires the utmost care and concentration to training and every racing opportunity to ensure the technical aspects of that training have been perfected. She supposedly gained years of experience in 13 weeks following an 11,37 opening race to shake off the rust.

Marion Jones put behind her a 2005 season filled with more questions than answers, more disappointments than successes when she stepped on the track to challenge Torri Edwards over 100m at the Banamex Invitational at Xalapa, Mexico on 2006-May-13, defeating Edwards 11,06 to 11,30. Marion Jones continued forward by running under 11,00 in the 100m dash three times out of 10 races (running two of the five-fastest 100m marks of the season) in 2006. She prematurely ended the season following her departure from Zürich, and was the 2nd-fastest 100m sprinter (10,91) in the world – again following a season of interruption and disillusionment.

Marion Jones was again on a collision course with the superhuman – appearing to battle through all odds and adversity to reclaim her position among the top elites until the “A”-sample test thwarted her.

Regarding that "A"-sample test, that was one smoking gun which left a large hole in the wall.

A history lesson for Marion Jones was to prove to be a very tough assignment when it concerned “A”-sample drugs screening analysis and results being falsely offered as positive discoveries – only to have a “B”-sample counter the interpretation concluded from the “A”-sample.

Marion Jones was to have learned that the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in Los Angeles, the site which conducted the EPO test, had fastidiously worked up to – and including – the day her unnamed sample was analysed to ensure the accuracy of drugs testing is indisputably judicious, and that they often erred on the side of caution when declaring test results “positive” as to not falsely accuse the athlete whose name corresponded to the sample being investigated for possible performance-enhancing drugs usage and bring undue harm to the reputation of the athlete and of the laboratory.

Insofar as Marion Jones – make that a corresponding name to a specifically tested specimen number – had shown positive readings for a performance-enhancing drug, reports of the positive “A”-sample result were leaked to the world, and humankind categorically jumped on the opportunity to send Marion Jones to her rightful death in the sport.

Journalists from across the world thought they had captured the story of their professional lives, with columnists – including Steve Cram – taking that very opportune time to tell Marion Jones exactly what they thought of her. Nearly everyone jumped on the bandwagon, only to see the wheels fall off a few kilometres later when the “B”-sample results were addressed by Marion Jones’s attorneys on 2006-September-6 to have revealed the opposite of what many were rejoicing: that Marion Jones “A”-analysis had been falsely reported, and she was now exonerated from all suspicion and guilt.

Athletes like France’s Christine Arron took that very moment to speak their minds, with Arron stating:

Marion Jones always has been an illusion ... "They [Jones and Gatlin] have no scruples, no ethics; they want glory and money, even if it lasts only a few years.”[5]

Kim Gaveart, the 2006 double European Outdoor sprint champion, expressed dismay and surprise upon learning of the positive result, but was optimistic justice had been served if the information was correct.

I am a bit shocked and very disappointed. There were rumours in the past, at the time the Balco doping affair broke out, Kim Gevaert told the daily Het Nieuwsblad.

She was given the benefit of the doubt at first and got a second chance, but now it's clear.

It's stupid of her. She turns out to be a fake person.

I can't understand it. How can you enjoy a round of applause after the race when you know you've been cheating? What a hypocrite!”[6]

Ato Boldon was most critical of Marion Jones, and let out an even louder, more direct and to-the-point outburst than did Gavaert:

I've known Marion for 15 years. I think that I was one of the people who defended Marion up until the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) thing happened," Boldon said.

And when I really just sat down in my own quiet time and read a lot of the stuff that happened, a lot of the things that I saw, the grand jury evidence, I knew Marion was doping and I think it's pretty clear to anyone with a brain that Marion has basically been doping her whole career.”[7]

The encouraging lesson for sharks who were seeking to strike first blood from Marion Jones was to have been that the UCLA lab which conducted the tests and recorded their observations has processed nearly 300.000 tests over the years, and had never failed an inquisition or panel hearing concerning the validity of its procedures and analysis.

What was the apparent bad news for those who were holding on to hope by a microscopic strand?

Run for 25 years by founder and Chairman of the Medical and Science Committee for the IOC Medical Commission, Dr. Don Catlin, the laboratory – staffed with more than 50 researchers and technicians, including six Ph.D.’s – had never had a false-positive reading.

That was until September 2006, that is.

(The next sections will focus on Marion Jones's EPO test, its "failure" and her great escape)

[1] The New York Times, “Despite Slow Times, Jones Stays Upbeat”, 2005-04-25
[2] Los Angeles Times, “Jones Doesn’t Address Doping Allegations”, 2005-06-09
[3] Bob Baum, Associated Press, “Marion Jones cleared: B sample negative”, 2006-09-07
[4] The New York Times, “Jones Says She Didn’t Write Check That Went to Balco”, 2004-04-25

[5]Chicago Tribune, Phillip Hersh column, 2006-08-19.
[6]Vrtnieuws.be, “What a hypocrite”, 2006-08-21

[7] www.sportal.co.nz - a story which has since been removed from site, original post: 2006-08-20

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