Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones: Vol. 24

Story by Eric.

(This is the 24th 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.)

It had only been Marion Jones's fourth season back on the track after four years absent; she had competed in 30 finals the previous season - 36 two years earlier.

Marion Jones’s Olympic victory was decisive and expected by those who were lured into her deception, but her three-metre margin-of-victory – a 10,75 to runner-up 11,12 – was the largest margin in Olympic history since Australian Marjorie Jackson's win in Helsinki in 1952.

She opened her Olympic Games sprinting with a 10,83 heat 1 victory – a time which no other female performer that season had run, and one of only two sub-11,00 performances in round one (Ekateríni Thánou ran 10,99 in the same heat for a qualifying time), and ran an 11,01-second in her semi-final into a -1,1 wind – a time which converts to 10,93 corrected for wind adjustments and altitude.

Marion Jones ran three sub-11 races in two days, with two – including the final – in one day, Saturday, 2000-September-23. Marion Jones took six long jump finals attempts on Friday, 2000-September-22, to net her a 6,92m (+1,0m) third-round mark - one which landed her the bronze medal.

Marion Jones concluded the 2000 season with eight of the top-10 times in the world over 100m, with her nearest competitor’s season-best 0,11-seconds behind. She broke 11,00 seconds 11 times in 2000 – including her two qualification (10,92, 10,93) races and final (a 10,88 where Marion Jones didn’t capture the lead from Gail Devers until 60m into the race, she was the only athlete under 11,00, and the race was run into a -1,0 wind) at the USA Olympic Trials.

Her Team USA Head Coach in Sydney, Karen Dennis, stated in Sydney ahead of the first event that Marion Jones should not surprise anyone with her goals, and predicted that she’d accomplish them should she complete all her events.

She’s driven to achieve, she's got a lot of pride and a phenomenal amount of confidence in her abilities. It is a combination of all those qualities that make her so great.” [1]

Marion Jones was also the only female athlete that season to break 22,00 over the 200m distance, running the two-fastest times in the world – 21,84 at the Olympic Games and 21,94 at the USA Olympic Trials. Marion Jones ran a grand total of two 200m track meets that season, with three races in Sacramento at her national championships (22,62, 22,08w and 21,94), and three rounds (22,75, 22,50, 22,40) and a final (21,84) in Sydney en route to her Olympic gold medal performance.

Just two years earlier, she’d exhausted herself at the USA Championships following the 200m final which she’d won in 22,24 seconds. Twenty-seven months later, Marion Jones had pulled off competing in heats, rounds, semi-finals and/or finals in five events in Sydney. Marion Jones stated in 1998 that she was happy and relieved after her 200m victory (which she won after shutting down with 15m remaining), informing reporters that the triple took a lot of energy out of her legs, and she would not attempt that triple again that season.

Somehow she found the strength two seasons later.

I’ve said it all along. Today was going to be the most difficult because of two rounds of the 200 and having to jump,” she said. “I tried to conserve my energy in the first round,” she explained. [2]

One thousand-seven hundred metres of racing later, Marion Jones left Sydney accomplished with a demonstrated degree of strength against fatigue, and the consternation which grew between 4x400m relay members who had earlier protested Marion Jones’s selection to the event, was thereby reduced to a quiet afterthought.

Unfortunately, seven years later, that dismay would prove to have been worth its weight in gold, as Marion Jones would have her medals swiped, and those same teammates would once again discuss the choice of having Marion Jones on that relay.

She will not be remembered as the star of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She will just be remembered as a drug cheat,” (AOC spokesman Mike) Tancred said.

We feel sorry for the drug-free athletes who raced against Marion Jones. They raced in the true Olympic spirit and she has deceived them. She's the new Ben Johnson.” [3]

A New York Times reporter, pondering the significance of Marion Jones’s feats in Sydney, wondered what had gotten into Marion Jones.

Somewhere between Atlanta and Australia, Jones got gumption -- maybe Nike marketing, maybe a suddenly inflated sense of her abilities, maybe a sense that her time had arrived. [4]

No. What Marion Jones got was a boost of “the clear” under her tongue and knew that she would not be tripped up by drugs testing at those Games.

Those who had made an exception to discussing drugs in athletics during the biggest sporting event on the planet honoured Marion Jones for her season’s accomplishments, and declared her a “champion” while she stood on the medal stand – watching her national flag was raised during her first 15 minutes of fame.

Those fans, through their collective acceptance of Marion Jones’s efforts (notwithstanding victory or defeat), gave of themselves to Marion Jones the honorary crown of prestige and respect, and talk of her performances lived on long past the final seconds it took her to reach the finish line or eloquently glide through the air over a pit filled with playground sand.

Those fans included a host of dignitaries and influential people around the globe, people who, today, likely feel ridicule and scorn for the girl whom they had adopted as their own.

In one of the grandest of ironies, The National Women’s Law Center honoured Marion Jones, stating that Marion Jones was the epitome of courage, discipline and excellence. Marion Jones would later be the beneficiary of two judicial decisions, namely felony charges for lying.

A Junior Olympic award had subsequently been established in her name; and the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, even participated in the action, appointing Marion Jones in the autumn of 2000 one of 20 individuals to serve as Members of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for two-year terms. Belize’s Prime Minister Musa conferred on her the Order of Belize and named her Ambassador at Large for Sports following her Olympic exploits.

Marion Jones became a tremendous role model for American girls, winning the 2000 ESPY award for Female Athlete of the Year, which made her one of the most distinguished competitors of the Title IX generation. Such was her legacy, that, seven years after the fact, a youth sprint prodigy in America, Robin Reynolds, “would love to be just like Marion Jones, running the Olympics and winning gold.”

What would Reynolds, who won the 2005 USA Track and Field “Florence Griffith-Joyner” award, with several Olympians – including Gatlin – travelling to Miami, Florida to present her with the prize – say of Marion Jones today?

Minority women and role modelling has been an important topic which Beverly Kearney, head coach at the University of Texas, has had ample opportunity to discuss through the media.

“You always realize that what you do as a minority coach — especially as an African-American female — is greater than your win-loss record,” she says. “We impact how administrators around the country see women and African-Americans.

“You have a responsibility that goes beyond the playing field,” she continues. “You have a responsibility to teach and to inspire young people in terms of intellectual wisdom and not just academic wisdom. You teach life skills and how to be successful as an African American in our society and as a woman in our society.”[5]

Marion Jones was as esteemed and regarded in Belize as she was in the United States, a place where she’d taken considerable amount of time on her excursions there to encourage Belize’s youth to believe in themselves and to never give up in their pursuits.

Marion Jones was likened to a person containing the total package of strength, grace and beauty, and was to demonstrate how sports could greatly empower young women, as stated by Jessica Johnson in an opinion column published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 2006-September-03.

She was also one who, at that time, could hold speeches to stadiums full of people and admiring fans of any language, race or particular athletics interest – a sign of how power and influence.

Marion Jones was named, by means of deception and fraud, the 2000 World Sportswoman of the Year in winning the Laureus World Sports Award opposite Tiger Woods, the World Sportsman of the Year winner. She also earned, by means of deception and fraud, the title of female athlete of year in 2000 by the Associated Press and Reuters, as well as deceived the IAAF for the same corresponding title handed out by their organisation. She forged her name by means of fraud and deception into the history books ahead of Venus Williams on the AP ballot.

She was also part of promotional campaigns by US television channel NBC, Nike, Gatorade, Panasonic, General Motors, AT&T, TAG Heuer watches and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes in the lead-up to the Olympics.

Mayor David Fonseca of Belize City presented Marion Jones with the key to Belize City, and the national stadium was renamed “the Marion Jones Sporting Complex”.

[1] CNNSI.com, “Jones will win five gold, says US coach”, 2004-09-13
[2] CNNSI.com, “Jones puts drug crisis on hold and gets back to chasing gold,” 2000-09-27
[3] Fairfax Digital, “Jones’ jailing ‘a message to drug cheats’”, 2008-01-13
[4] The New York Times, “Relays Reveal The Most About Jones”, 2000-10-01
[5] Diverse, “Black Women Coaches Hope to Inspire the Next Generation”, 2007-06-15

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