Turning the Page on Marion Jones: Vol. 60

Written by Eric.

This is the 60th 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.

This story is being told in its entirety, because Marion Jones is unable to do it herself. Though parts of this story may be historical in nature, they are of essense to the sum of the whole insofar as they tell a story of a woman who is more complicit in the BALCO affairs and her own drug-taking than she has led on.

This and the subsequent entries remaining help turn the page on all that she stood for in dirty word and deed.

When does the process of demonstrating undying support for athletes like Marion Jones who are caught in the headlights become unhealthy – with the faculties of reasoning giving way to non-concrete things like hope and faith not in the absence of concrete evidence to the contrary, but because one simply has no availability of doubt to lend to their heroines?

Are doped athletes and those who help them level the playing field, so-to-speak, to be considered on par with criminals? Is it punishment enough when their careers are destroyed and their reputations permanently tarnished?

I believe the answer to the first question is simple: When an athlete like Marion Jones achieves a mark in the absence of concrete evidence to support her having both the ability and the legal means to make that achievement, and in so doing, she defies all logic and definition of what is possible given the parameters in which she has to operate, she should come under scrutiny, though not necessarily suspicion.

If an athlete like Marion Jones compiles a record which continues to defy logic and belief, one should investigate sooner – rather than later – the reasons behind such a success for the sport’s sake, and for the sake of its faithful fans.

However, insofar as drug cheats appear to remain a step ahead of the testers – and paying heavily out-of-pocket to do so (however fleeting that time may be), one may simply never have the means or the opportunity to catch such an athlete in a jam.

Having undying support for a phenomenal athlete is one of the principles which makes for being a great fan – the arête of the sport; having a conscious ideal of perfection and backing up those who are able to seal together the harmonious development of their minds and bodies is what brings happiness to our souls when it relates to our enjoyment of competition.

Conversely, when that support continues pressing onward when, despite the warning signs along that path which are meant to grab hold, stun, stop and erupt a sense of reasoning to alert you of possible faults with your beloved athlete, the practice of following blindly will have its self-humiliating consequences. There will be no one there to say, “I told you so,” rather, the painful part will be watching the news and having to confess inside, “I should have known better”.

Marion Jones made a self-confession that she should have known better than to trust a man who supposedly told her never to reveal any of their nutritional supplement strategy, and faced humiliating consequences of being locked behind bars away from her son for a six-month stretch in Federal prison. Her actions hindered two investigations and prevented authorities to act on pertinent information relevant to two large criminal investigations. The Federal government actually stated “It is difficult to articulate how catastrophic” Marion Jones’ false testimony would have been to the government's check-fraud case had her lies gone undetected. [1]

In the case of Ellerman, the source behind the BALCO grand jury testimony leaks whose actions – according to Federal prosecutors – had hindered the on-going BALCO investigation, his legal counsel believes just punishment should end with the humiliation one faces when exposed.

Given the punishment Mr. Ellerman has already endured, having lost two full professional careers and suffering widespread public ridicule in the media for his actions among other losses in his life, no further amount of deterrence for Mr. Ellerman is necessary.”[2]

They were not alone, as the Probation Officer, in addressing to the court the issue of punishment and deterrence, stated Ellerman was not in further need of deterrence having understood his crimes and not being a danger of re-offending.

The question, when considering deterrence, is, ‘Whom does the Court want, or need, to deter?’ If one considers only Mr. Ellerman, it is clear that no further deterrence is needed. Ellerman committed his crimes over a five-month period, and after all was said and done, he had garnered four felony convictions, resigned from the California Bar, lost his job at the PRCA, and found himself facing a prison term.

Mr. Ellerman know he committed serious acts, is extremely contrite, and is not in danger of re-offending. Thus, for Mr. Ellerman, a very high price has already been paid. Mr. Ellerman was a lawyer, though, and he is not being sentenced in a vacuum.

The Court must consider deterrence in general and must sentence accordingly. It must not impose a sentence, though, that disregards the history and characteristics of Ellerman.[3]

Given the public ridicule Marion Jones has had, should one simply let her bow out and take her disgrace personally and quietly out of the public spotlight, or should a more just punishment be imposed to match the degree of lies and fraud she has undertaken since her return to the sport?

Jan Fitschen, the surprise 2006 EAA European Championships 10,000m gold medalist from Germany, stated to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 2007-January-1 that court-proven doping offenders should be imprisoned if they are found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Fitschen, 29, argued that the current maximum two-year competition ban the IAAF imposes on first-time offenders isn't enough in order to fight the battle against those who cheat. Fitschen told the newspaper that he, himself, has never been tempted to use performance-enhancing drugs, because of his status in the sport.

However, he did concede that his living standard and lack of reliance on athletics to put food on the table may not be seen in the same light by athletes with a different financial background.

In most cases, I’d put my house and home on the premise that if you’re out to cheat, you’re out for life, and you should not only be punished for swindling sponsors and event managers out of prize money and athletes out of higher finishing places and journalists of true stories, but also justifiably punished by the fullest extent of the social law for lying under oath and promise of competing at your best for the conscious ideal of perfection – not perfecting the conscious.

Stephane Diagana, the 1997 IAAF World 400m hurdles champion and an IAAF and WADA athlete Commission member, spoke along the same lines in pointing out on the third day of the 2006 IAAF World Anti-Doping Symposium in Lausanne, Switzerland, that athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs should have equal financial penalties levied against them and the option for the IAAF or fellow athletes to claim back money the disqualified athlete earned dishonestly. The IAAF agreed that any financial penalties on an athlete or their federation could be summarily used to fund the IAAF anti-doping programme or any other Anti-Doping organisation.

The Tour de France took drastic measures to compel all participants to sign an anti-doping charter which requested participants to swear an oath that they are not involved in doping and that, if they are found to be guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs, they will be duty-bound to pay a year's salary on top of the two-year ban sanctioned on them for such a transgression against their rules.

Penalising dirty athletes like is part of the solution, but more will need to be done to enable cheats like renegade coaches like Trevor Graham to face considerable consequence for the equal transgression of the law of the sport. Athletes have received two-year, four-year and life-time bans for their transgressions – depending on the nature and number of infractions. Conte, in a court of law, received a four-month light sentence and continued on with his life.

Consider, if you will, the Italian Anti-Doping stance, for example – one which criminalizes performance-enhancing drugs usage including imprisonment and the levying of hefty fines. Athletes found guilty of drugs offences can be sentenced between three months to three years in prison, and be fined between $3.073 and $61.483 according to attorney Mario Ferrari of the law firm of Hammonds Rossotto, which has advised the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Italy passed an Anti-Doping Act in 2000 which provides a range of criminal penalties for athletes found to have used medical, biological or chemical substances identified by the Italian Ministry of Health as performance-enhancing. Their ministry tracks banned substances by reviewing lists maintained by the IOC and WADA. A criminal investigation is launched by a prosecutor’s office when it is alerted to an athlete’s positive doping test. The prosecutor has extensive authorization to approve search warrants should their prosecutors believe that evidence of possible doping has occurred.

WADA has taken leaps and bounds to speak out and enable governments to have the authority in the fight against doping to take action against the illegal manufacture and supply of doping substances, facilitate doping controls, support education, fund research, and take other equally important measures. One area WADA could improve on would be in doping rehabilitation, as a transformed athlete could make a positive influence on athletes riding on the fence between the choice of doping and putting in the extra hard work to make it to their goals as unassisted.

The IAAF Council, taking a positive stand against performance-enhancing drug usage, has called for an increase in doping sanctions to four years. They have undertaken necessary measures to ensure peer-to-peer anti-doping initiatives reach their intended audiences from elite athlete down to juniors who hope to emulate the seniors. The International Olympic Committee determined on 2007-August-23 to ban athletes from the next available Olympic Games should those athletes face a ban of more than six months; plea-bargaining with sufficient information to fight bigger sources of peddling and using would be the only possible saving grace from Olympic expulsion.

Wilson Kipketer, Denmark’s 800m world-record holder, is one such ambassador who has gone to length’s end to meet athletes from all over the world and discuss with them the meaning of adhering to an anti-doping initiative. He has aimed, particularly, to show juniors that athletes can become record-holders, Olympians and World Champions without doping.

Great Britain’s Daley Thompson, an eight-time gold medal decathlete, serves as a mentor with UK Athletics. He has been resolute in his stance against athletes who cheat, and offered the following advice following Gatlin’s positive test and his acknowledgement of the accuracy of the positive test:

I wish all his marks were expunged and it was as if he had never competed.

Any reference to him being Olympic champion should go, he should lose his medals and be banned for life.

Furthermore, Thompson stated that Gatlin’s two-faced public image was a very bad blow to the sport.

Gatlin should be made an example of. He has been going around saying what a great bloke he is and how kids can look up to him and that makes it twice as bad.

What I have to do is advise them that temptation may be on offer during their careers but that ultimately, as Gatlin has discovered, cheats don't prosper.[4]

Paula Radcliffe, the world-record holder in the marathon, was equally infuriated over Gatlin’s positive test, stating that he was a nice, honest person who inspired kids to take up the sport of athletics. His crime, she stated, was simple – it was fraud. She expressed dismay at the deterrents in America, however, in an interview printed 2006-09-10 in thisislondon.co.uk.

Gatlin hasn't shown that he possesses a strong, moral ethic to do the right thing before, so why will he now?" she said. "He owed it to track and field not to cheat in the first place.[5]

Radcliffe was much harder on Marion Jones following her 2007 conviction of lying to US Federal authorities and obstructing justice.

I believe sanctions should be increased to four years (suspension) and in a case like this a lifetime ban should be imposed.

We should be pleased. One of the biggest frauds has been caught. Her medals should also be taken away.”[6]

Marion Jones, the extraordinary high school athlete who disappeared off the map only to reappear better, faster and more mature with the absence of any real, valid and understood training time – and previously coached by Graham – also owed it to her sport to not cheat in the first place.

Why did she do it?

The underlying reason: Pure, unadulterated greed.

Why did she lie about it? According to her, it was to protect family, her coach at the time (Graham), and her career.

Make no mistake about Marion Jones’s complicit involvement in her ingestion of performance-enhancing drugs, and resist strongly the temptation to believe that she was lured by her coach.

Marion Jones, the competitive person she demonstrated countless times that she was, dared after considering the consequences to put one foot down the hot pathway to deception. She didn’t get burned initially, and thereby allowed herself to continue down a thought process which called for winning at a high-risk game she had begun playing.

She extended another foot out and put it down following the uneasiness and nervousness accompanying one’s first attempt at deception – or high-stakes lying, if you will. Consequently, she didn’t experience the same result that time, however; she was able to be more deceptive and had the unplanned luxury of being able to hide her performance behind an over-allowable wind reading; she again didn’t experience any jeopardy of exposure to a highly risky endeavour.

Learning very quickly that the pathway to success she had chosen could be managed despite the potential risk, Marion Jones set forth with first-degree intent to cheat to catch up…and go on….straight to the top. She then took leaps and bounds forward into self-delusion whilst also deliberately involving the rest of the sporting world in a game of cat and mouse.

Marion Jones’s misdeeds in the sport were spurred on by a desire to seek power, advantage, money and admiration – and all in as quick a fashion as possible considering she had 13 weeks to prepare for the springboard to that goal, namely the United States Outdoor Championships.

Putting together three seasons of mind-boggling efforts and results made her even hungrier for success. Winning five gold medals at a single Olympics would have provided Marion Jones an element of elite status unknown to any track and field athlete who had ever stepped foot into an Olympic stadium – eclipsing the four gold medals Jesse Owens won in 1936 and which Carl Lewis emulated 48 years later in Los Angeles.

Marion Jones would have had marketability which could have rivalled another person bearing the same initials, namely Michael Jordan, and could have used that power and influence to significantly forge ahead of other athletes who had legitimately endeavoured to stake claim to fame through hard work and legal means. Possessing power and advantage to call the shots would have also enabled Marion Jones to collect stupendously high sums of appearance fees as being the only athlete in the history of the sport to have won five gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Sponsorship opportunities would undoubtedly been at an all-time high for Marion Jones as she would have been the world’s most marketable person.

Having power, means to use it, opportunity and money left one more need to be met for Marion Jones: exposure and admiration. She had a fashionable personality which media accepted, and portrayed herself as a classy person who didn’t want to waste a minute more away from the track following her basketball career. Folks were to buy into an idea that Marion Jones was still the same gifted athlete she was in high school, and her regard and popularity, which both grew immensely across the globe as she set sail on her professional career, was the feather in her cap which she was to proudly bear; she did what she felt it would take to be accepted into the elite circles and appreciated by fans who love the sport.

Why did Marion Jones continue once she was established? She became used to “the lifestyle”. Lying became part of that lifestyle and culture of cheating by any undetectable means necessary to stay at the top. Moreover, at what point could Marion Jones have stepped aside and ever told the truth? She had an opportunity to retire following the birth of her child with Tim Montgomery. She had global and Olympic titles under her belt as well as a surplus of US titles, awards and accolades to boot; nothing was lacking from her trophy case except world records.

However, she chose to return to the sport and employ similar tactics as she had before – one hot step at a time. She continued with conduct which involved the improper use of power, the improper collection of trust and an inappropriate authority inherent in her position held as an elite athlete of this sport – though she struggled to maintain these.

The fear of that consequence also fed the fire of the lie, so she continued on until her “A”-sample result physically tied her to trespassing on the premises of truth – only to be released without charges some weeks later.

Fourteen months after that event, Marion Jones was released back to the world on her own recognisance, only to be charged for having fuelled those lies.

Marion Jones held no method to control others’ reactions to her untruths, and therefore didn’t feel at liberty to attempt to persuade anyone of the truth, Federal authorities notwithstanding. Trying to manage what she perceived could be potential reactions to discovery of those untruths only resulted in more lying and resistance from her, because the lesser physical connection she had to folks pursuing the truth the lesser personal connection she had. Consequently, she would be more likely to have revealed the fact that she was engaged in deceptive behaviour the closer physically she was to people, which is one reason I believe it is rationally imperative to keep yourself from believing she had no knowledge of what her ex-husband and former boyfriend were not on performance-enhancing drugs.

Nevertheless, had Marion Jones provided people an opportunity to learn the truth behind her success, the result could have been significantly different in gathering public support, understanding and earlier resolution inasmuch as the ivory posts overseeing the four corners of her world are not occupied with people casting down judgment. The content and tone of this book may have also been dynamically different than it currently is as well, and the substitution process between idolising Marion Jones and the next great athlete could have been much easier for children who look up to such persons.

Marion Jones played a game with her career, and assumed she was adept enough to never be caught red-handed in the spotlight. Insofar as she has undergone a metamorphosis of title and character from world’s fastest woman to world’s dirtiest, most sophisticated and greediest cheat and liar, she has no further place in the world of athletics. Not now, not ever. No amount of come to Jesus and be saved contrition or tearful confession on international television can erase the indelible red ink Marion Jones has used to stain this sport.

One simply can’t – and should never – believe utterances Marion Jones makes now – or has ever made – about having a love for the sport in which she has competed for so many years; love – undying love – in this sport requires a pure and uncompromised legacy be left when the spikes are removed from the sponsor shoes, and the final whispers have turned silent deep into the night.

Her having broken a Deed of Trust is another factor in limiting the degree of her trustworthiness.

Or should one limit his beliefs regarding her credibility and trustworthiness? Can liars ever tell the truth? You, I and everyone with a capacity to reason has at one time or another lied, cheated or fibbed in a manner inappropriate for being absolute truth-tellers or spreaders of truthful messages.

True life-living, life-long liars, however – when their backs are broken from the weight of shame and guilt they have carried, and their spirits are crushed from the defeat handed out when they, having lied, attempt to compete against the soundness of truth – appear as though they can, indeed, have their moments when, under the surface of the lying exterior, they can, as people, show signs of modest truth-telling capabilities.

Michael Johnson spoke the honest-to-god’s truth on Tuesday, 2006-September-19, stating in a Daily Telegraph column to his faithful British audience:

For the sake of her own well-being, and the sake of the sport, it would be best if Jones just went away quietly to raise her son.[7]

Could it really have been so easy for a stubborn, driven cat with an unyielding willpower to simply walk away into the night, take its paws off the roof long enough to finally let it cool down, and cuddle in a corner with a lonely old fart interested in telling stories?

Not for Marion Jones, who was forced into retirement by method of exposure to the lies she told.

Marion Jones hinted during a press conference in Belize in December, 2006 that she was considering retirement.

I just need to make a lot of decisions,” she said. “My son is getting to an age where it is necessary for me to be present more and more. I'll make some decisions with my family in the next several months about what the future holds.[8]

She was once very appreciative of Johnson, stating:

To have somebody like Michael Johnson say something like that about you says a lot about my character, that I'm more than a track-and-field athlete.[9]

Marion Jones owed it to herself, her competitors/rivals and her fans to have better moral character to do the right thing from the start, namely to use natural talent and hard work to propel herself to the upper echelons of the sport. Instead, history has demonstrated to us that she possessed ethical incompetence to the highest degree; the world’s fastest woman had the world’s slowest reaction time when it came to choosing a moral fibre consistent with the mark of a champion.

What effect did a person like Johnson likely have when Marion Jones was believed to have felt isolated, empty, robbed, deprived and shocked following her EPO test?

In all likelihood, it has had little consequential effect whatsoever, because I don’t believe she is capable of feeling anything when she has her game face on, her entourage defending her castle, and the remaining secrets of her past locked tightly in a vault.

The Fort Knox bullion depository is noted as being structured with a vault casing which has been constructed of steel plates, steel I-beams and steel cylinders laced with hoop bands and encased in concrete. There is not one person who is entrusted with the combination to the vault, as an elaborate scheme of numbers – combinations, if you will – are secretly and privately held by members of the depository staff who must successfully dial these separate combinations in order to open the vault.

In comparison, Marion Jones has had an influential inner circle of trusted advisors who possessed their own secret combinations available to turn the tide on her and unlock the truth in this, undoubtedly one of the sport’s darkest moments. Each held a private detail of accounts and activities which, when turned and unlocked in sequence, could have had an immediate and final impact on her career – yet have provided a positive march in the right direction for sports drug enforcement officials from the USOC, WADA and USADA.

Some of the keys to her improprieties were indeed inserted and dialled when discoveries and admissions netted information when the first-round of BALCO Grand Jury testimony began in 2003, yet Marion Jones bandied about and kept her game face firmly planted behind her deceptive appearance. Pressures mounted when part of the code began to crack, yet Marion Jones never vacillated and remained staunchly resolute in her attempt to keep focus and deliver on her promise of never testing positive. When it appeared that one person – not several as should have been protocol for protecting a vault of that magnitude – had the master codes tucked in his pocket and even began naming sequence times and codes to unlock the vault, Marion Jones simply stood in front of her treasure chest and refused entry despite the key fitting perfectly into the door; she broke off the keys in the entrance gate, so-to-speak, and left an entire army at the foot of her door.

Though the athletics world took a step back when the BALCO revelation came to light, it did not suffer a setback in finding new heroes for little children to worship, new rivalries to market around the globe and new demonstrations of speed and excellence to write home about.

Marion Jones, the once preferred-athlete who could pick and choose her own lanes in invitational races and decide when and against whom she wanted to compete, had been substituted for fresh faces – determined athletes and people who followed their dreams to excellence by taking paths which reflected their character and put to test their accountabilities to the sport.

The 2007 USA Outdoor Championships (USATF) held 20-24 June was only the second outdoor national title contest which Marion Jones had missed since her return to the sport 10 years earlier. Her absence was not missed by her competitors, as young, hungry and self-professed clean athletes stepped up to face the challenge and turn the page for the future – though there was even redemption for those who’d put in time and distance from previous personal and athletic misdemeanours.

Marion Jones may have had been “conspicuously absent” from the competition, but also remarkably absent in Indianapolis was the dark cloud hovering over the other competitors previously affected by all of the distractions; excellent plots and stories were able to unfold, and none of them involved the words BALCO or Marion Jones.

Tyson Gay accomplished an incredible double in the 100m and 200m dashes, running 9,84 and 19,62, and there was not a mention of Marion Jones in the headlines. Allyson Felix, the 2004 Olympic 200m runner-up, won her third USA title at that distance – effectively taking over the reins from Marion Jones as the world’s best in that event. No mention of her there, either. As a matter of fact, the sport seemed better off without her – fully capable of standing on its own two feet propelled by athletes who were ready to accept the task.

Consequently, both athletes went on to win six gold medals in Osaka between them, with Gay taking the 100m crown (9,85) from world-record holder Asafa Powell (third in 9,96), establishing a new meet record in the 200m (19,76), and running the third leg on the victorious 4x100m relay (37,78).

Gay had never won an IAAF World Championships medal in his career, having placed fourth in the 2005 IAAF World Championships in the 200m (20,34).

Felix won the 200m in her first-ever sub-22 second performance (21,81) and ran legs on the victorious 4x100m (41,98) and 4x400m relays (3.18,55) – the latter with a stunning third leg of 48,0 seconds. Felix became the second woman in the history of the IAAF World Championships to win three gold medals. East Germany’s Marita Koch won three at the first IAAF World Championships edition in 1983.

Marion Jones’s name didn’t crop up in Japan, either, except when 200m sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe of Sri Lanka placed third for the second time in her career, 10 years after Marion Jones won gold in her first season of running professionally.

Allyson Felix stole the women’s show in Osaka, and it was of utter relief to watch her perform in her own spotlight in her own hour of victory absolutely free of the web of deceit under which Marion Jones did.

The United States collected 26 medals – 14 gold – and not one question ever arose about the what could have been had Marion Jones competed.

USATF released a statement following Marion Jones’s sentencing, and relayed much of the same sentiment:

Today's sentencing concludes a sad series of events. The revelation that one of the sport's biggest stars took performance-enhancing drugs and repeatedly lied about it, in addition to being a party to fraud, has no silver lining. But, it is a vivid morality play that graphically illustrates the wages of cheating in any facet of life, on or off the track. We hope that all Americans will take to heart those lessons. The sport of track and field in the United States has moved on since Marion Jones competed, reaching even higher levels of success, as a team, than when she was at her peak. No one wanted to see this happen, and we hope that Marion and her family can move on as well.”[10]


[1] San Francisco Chronicle, “Recommended term for Jones: up to 6 months”, 2007-12-22 [2] MSNBC, “Alcohol, drugs, depression root of BALCO leak”, 2007-06-06 [3] USA vs. Ellerman Supplemental Sentencing Memo, 2007-07-10 [4] BBC Sport, ”Gatlin medals must go – Thompson,” 2006-08-23 [5] Thisislondon.co.uk, “Radcliffe in revolt,” 2006-09-10 [6] Thisislondon.co.uk, “Radcliffe Pleased ‘Fraud’ Jones Was Caught,” 2007-10-06 [7] Daily Telegraph, “Taint of scandal has irreparably harmed Jones”, 2006-09-19 [8] Reuters, “Jones Considering Quitting”, 2006-12-15 [9] The New York Times, “Marion Jones Feels An Odd Emptiness”, 2000-10-02 [10] USATF.org, “USATF statement on the sentencing of Marion Jones”, 2008-01-11

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