(This is the 17th 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.)
The shame of this manifestation for most people human is learning that Marion Jones has traded a house in uptown for one in shantytown. Marion Jones has undergone a transformation from having rubbed elbows with Bryant Gumbel, Katie Couric and Nelson Mandela to sleeping in a dirty pit with people like a bankrupted couple named Dick and Jane – though she may not go to the same extremes to keep her lawn green if you follow the analogy. Furthermore, she has traded the comfort of house and home with the very real possibility of sharing a bunk with a United States Federal prisoner for any given period of time.
At the end of Marion Jones’s athletics rope, she covered herself during the day with stolen shrubs when the heat became unbearable, and placed a jagged rock under her inflated head for comfort when the sky above appeared to be collapsing down on her – as it did many a time in her short, 30-year-old existence here on earth.
Marion Jones went from a chateau-style home neighbouring Michael Jordan (purchased for a loan amount of $2.500.000 on 2003-February-19) to foreclosure, with two other North Carolina homes she owned – including the one she purchased for her mother – put on the market to raise “money to pay bills”.
Mandela stated at the launch of
Marion Jones is stated to be facing poverty, and her plan of action to financial recovery is to leave it up to God. Sir Winston Churchill, if he were alive, would have said fight on to the end.
“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.”
Now when the storms began hailing down from the heavens above (the forecast – no, the foreshadowing – had been warning of a tornado for some time now), they illuminated a golden road upon which Marion Jones had trespassed and sodden during her athletics life – one meant for the purer and more clean athletes who sweat salt and water, not artificial substances left from “the clear”.
The prudent – knowing that every road has two directions – don’t always choose the road less travelled, but do ensure they have a valid course map. The path Marion Jones settled upon – a thoroughfare stretching across eight separate seasons – has culminated in her reaching the end of the line with her foot stuck in a muddied hole of deception with no way to go but straight to jail and straight out of the sport.
Marion Jones found herself again at a public relations gulf too wide to circumvent, and waters too high and too deep to cross on her own, as she is one of the – if not most – recognisable names in her sport, and awaited her get-out-of-the-wilderness-free card from the IAAF – the authority responsible for accepting the legitimacy of the test result and the explanations provided for the “B”-sample tests. The international governing body did not refuse the explanation or call for a secondary review of the “B”-sample, enabling Marion Jones to avoid suffering under more heat, and continuing on her exhausting path.
Marion Jones was found innocent by the IAAF of a drug allegation relating to her “A”-sample testing, and she became a free woman able to compete until the next stormy scandal would rock her boat.
As the law of averages works wonders to serve one correctly, the waters did swell up yet again for Marion Jones in October 2007, and the storms engulfed her one more time – as they had since she returned to the sport 10 years earlier. Her cry for help – or quacks for sympathy – are echoing in the barren wilderness which is her life, and have fallen back on her own two deaf ears. Marion Jones has travelled her own course a withdrawn woman who has lost sense of the reality of where her final destination along the track of life would lead. Due process may have excused the first elevated EPO levels by closing the book on one test, but Marion Jones’s legacy was long since set.
Due process according to criminal law forced Marion Jones to close the book on her career, however, with “passing” the EPO test no small matter in this affair.
The footprints she leaves in the sand will never lead to a hall-of-fame, but to one of infamy shared by others who make extraordinary attempts at cheating.
The New York Times published an article on Tuesday, 2006-September-26 stating that Marion Jones was at that time seriously considering retiring. Marion Jones revealed to reporter William C. Rhoden via telephone that the five-week time period between her leaked “A”-sample test and the interview date were filled with turmoil and distress, with Marion Jones’s entire family affected by the issues surrounding the test.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” she said early last Saturday. “I’m not superhuman. All this weighs on a person, and this has weighed on me too much. When I heard the news about the positive drug test, I said’ ‘What else can I do? Maybe I should consider just not being in the sport.’ The last five weeks have been the most difficult I’ve ever had to face. The stress level, the emotional toll has gone to a new stratosphere.”
Her plea to get from underneath this event was heard loudly and clearly by Rhoden, who, at the conclusion of the article, stated “I say stay. Don’t run. Fight.”
She was thought to have a long battle ahead when Euro Meetings senior officials convened in March 2007 to vote on a motion to ban Marion Jones from every major event on the European Circuit in 2007 due to what they call, “excess baggage”.
“Marion brings nothing but a whole load of bad baggage,” said one leading European meeting director. “I don't think we'd miss her if we didn't invite her.”
However, the 18-member EAA council voted in Birmingham turned its attention from Marion Jones to European athletes currently (or any subsequent suspensions) serving at least a two-year doping ban, agreeing unanimously that those banned would not be able to compete in the EAA's major events (European indoor and outdoor championships, the European Cross-Country Championships and the annual European Cup competition) for a further two years.
An EAA spokesman stated that the EAA were not trying to stop the freedom of movement of any athletes, rather make a statement that if those who are banned are not allowed to compete in EAA championship events, it would devalue their worth to promoters.
The value of this contemplation has now diminished to naught, as Marion Jones has stepped away from the track for the rest of her natural life following her guilty plea to using steroids. Unfortunately, there are those, who, despite the warning signs, were still sticking around for the tornado, and were whisked away by their disbelief and the emotional turmoil of having been duped and lied to.
For those who, in the unlikely event have never picked up a souvenir copy of Life in the Fast Lane, take my advice: use the Redeem Me stamps to support five local high school kids’ dreams instead. The memoir is touching if you find the peak of angst created by standing in the middle of a division of hope and despair exciting. However, the story has been cheated of its authenticity by an estranged woman who ran down straightaways and jumped into pits void of social conscious. Marion Jones sprinted in a lane reserved for cheaters, and though running away will not have been glorious for her, it unquestionably will be very healthy for the sport in the long run – something which Marion Jones could not negotiate.
Marion Jones entered the homestretch of this drugs game far ahead of the average impugned cheat when controversial and turbulent circumstances were the marking sticks used to measure her against other fraudulent athletes. Marion Jones seemed undeniably equipped at staring the threat of banishment directly in the eye and being able to have it not roar back at her.
Consequently, it was not a vociferous lion in the form of Victor Conte which revealed to the world that Marion Jones’s grades on the honesty scale were fudged, namely that someone caught her making “A” marks by adding straight lines to each one of her “F” marks she recorded on her morality report card. Rather, it was first meant to be believed that it was a nameless, negligible individual who leaked a for-your-eyes-only publication of those infringements to the media before the instructors and principal were even alerted.
It went a step further than that, however.
The report card’s revelation left Marion Jones, the stark fighter, anxious and tired – having led an adult lifetime in hiding finally taking its dreadful toll on a body she has been enslaved to for three decades. Her response to being exonerated by the scientific testing procedures adversely connecting her first sample with drugs usage was one where she expressed being ecstatic, but absolutely nothing more came out of her than that. There was no rooftop dancing, no champagne bathing and no red carpet walks up to WADA’s headquarters. Marion Jones said absolutely nothing. Her attorneys did.
They were not speaking on her behalf 14 months later, however, and one understands that the monstrous looming legal trouble which stood overhead prevented Marion Jones from feeling any glee from having earlier escaped punishment.
Marion Jones’s hand had been severed before by the two-edged sword she used to feed her ego, yet rob from her sport, with a small Band-Aid applied to a gaping wound with respect to the amnesty she received in 2003 from the Federal government of the United States. That small rubberised surface containing small cotton square meant to treat a small cut burst, however, and her wounds did not heal; it was only a matter of time before she was to find the pain too much to handle and wither away into an obscure future outside of the sport.
It is a common gospel for men in a certain European culture to believe that not all who walk with long knives are crooks. I’d expect that, having seeing Marion Jones’s golden shank get sharper by the day during her career, even the most pious of men would have headed to the hills and ran away from her.
Fortunately for all, Marion Jones’s knife has shattered, and she has found it fit, herself, to throw down and disappear. One certainly hopes in the innermost self, however, that she is never forced to pawn off any other medals in order to make ends meet. Then again, which of Marion Jones’s medals had been won by the effort of honest competition if elements of her entire career have been suspect?
The Olympic ones, at least, have been safely transported back to the International Olympic Committee for re-assignment to the truest winners of those medals – save Thanou, who is – and will always be – suspected of doping. She, too, will be presented a medal of honour of a different value in what will be a true thorn to the International Association of Athletics Federations and the IOC.
 Los Angeles Times, “Marion Jones is out of the money,” 2007-06-23
 Sir Winston Churchill, “Never Give In, Never” speech to Harrow School, 1941-10-29
 The New York Times, ”Jones Tired of Running With Weight of Suspicion”, 2006-09-26
 The Guardian, “Jones’s ’bad baggage’ could lead to ban from European meetings”, 2006-11-29