This is the 62nd 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, now in its final chapters, is being told in its entirety, because Marion Jones is unable to do it herself inasmuch as she is more complicit in the BALCO affairs and her own drug-taking than she has led on.
Marion Jones was a desperate woman in desperate want, a person who was absolutely in need a new life in 2006, and having convinced herself it was time to end her spiel, she was absolutely in need of a total makeover in 2007. That would appear to be one reason she remarried and moved from
Marion Jones collected eight international championship, cup or Olympic victories and added a dominating 14 national championships to her legacy whilst competing in the sport of track and field as a professional athlete. However, when she packed her NIKE gear away in her bag – a question even arises as to whether it was even ever unpacked – and departed the five-floor, nine-suite hotel she was booked at in Zürich in August 2006, did she know that all she would have left to show of the lot was nothing more than a few dusty trophies and a collection of articles of an athlete once thought to have been the savior of her sport?
What she did know was that her medals collected between 1999 and 2001 would certainly be recalled and snatched from her bragging shelf. She also knew the pain and anguish it would cause her former teammates who shared on 4x100m and 4x400m teams in which she participated in either of those championships – or both.
Her estimated bank account balance at that time would demonstrate that the sum of her bills would have added up to more than the memories can compensate for them, and the plane ride would be her last on someone else’s dollar.
Running away from Zürich, and, likely the sport, doesn’t guarantee her any ability to completely be able to run away from life, as it were, insofar as each and every time she looks at her son, he will continue to remind her of his father and of times she and he shared – both good, bad and in-between, and times surrounded by controversy, allegations, banishments and branding as a cheater. Using a hyphenated name under the union of marriage rather than assuming a completely new identity will be another.
But Marion Jones-Thompson really is two different persons: She’s Marion Jones, who aggressively and illegally pursued times, places, marks and medals and vigilantly challenged all that stood in between – including Victor Conte, and she’s Marion Thompson, wife to a man who has quietly gone about living his life in Austin, Texas and was selected unexpectedly for the 2007 Pan-American Games.
Uniquely determined, she was Marion Jones whilst the first married man in her life, Cottrell J. Hunter III, kept his own name – and own problems – to himself. She remained Marion Jones when her next significant other, Tim Montgomery, would fall into the BALCO trap and ultimately fall out of grace from the sport, and from the record-books. And, she was Marion Jones, the last woman standing (or was that sitting?) after an EPO scare was followed by an interview in September 2006 which had her completely shocked that she’d been wrapped up in another drugs story niggling at her heels again, but a story which was rebuffed and stomped out when a scientific method proved that she didn’t take drugs then…or ever.
What remained to be seen up to her sentencing was which name she would use when sentenced for crimes against the United States of America, the country she stated she betrayed by obstructing justice and lying to Federal authorities.
She chose Marion Jones Thompson.
Due to the former, the latter self - despite its introduction into the public domain as a criminal - is not left to exist in the future under the sun without the clouds of the past creeping up and raining on her celebration of a new life, new goals, a new scenery and, quite likely, a new career.
Perhaps Marion Jones-Thompson’s hasn’t been consigned a firm-footed and grounded place in life, rather a juggling act she’d have to manage the rest of her natural life. She juggled interests as a two-sport athlete in high school and university with starkly different physical responsibilities; she managed to co-exist between principles of right and wrong as a professional athlete; and she managed to get rich at the genesis of her professional athletics pursuits and end up “broke” when the book of revelation was opened in the form of a 180-page declaration of facts to authorities – powers of influence with whom she has had a lot of dealings in her career professionally as an athlete, privately as one who has breached a financial contract, and personally with respect to economic support for her child.
Continuing as one person united to power and greed whilst life circumstances attempted to split her into another was been an act Marion Jones had been attempting to perfect for some time up to – and including – her incarceration.
Following her latest tie to calamity, it would seem conceivably best for her to give up the past and press onward in a full sprint ahead to a life outside of the lanes – rather than one confined by them. But Marion Jones needed the structured boundaries in her life as she did on the track, with violations of stepping outside for any given time immediate and irrevocable; her entire sports life has been governed by guns and whistles, officials and fouls.
There is hope that a new existence in a state far away will ease some of the troubled life that has been Marion Jones’s own reality – one which she created and lived under whilst the world hadn’t a clue of how elusive and deceptive it was, rather believed it to be rather distant, yet on par with lives lived by other famous athletes.
Had Marion Jones (Thompson) not been ensnared in the Graham trial, she would still be too old to legally run as she once did in her early 20s – when she was able to illegally withstand a high demand of competitive races per season and compete through multiple rounds requiring strenuous activity.
Additionally, her value as an asset to European meet organizers would have been severely handicapped due to a number of factors – most of which surround the image she portrayed. The 2007 season did not produce ground-breaking and earth-shattering marks in Marion Jones-Thompson’s absence, but having broken away from the sport for a second term in the latter stages of her adult life would not have been advantageous to fast running and high placing.
Having had time on her hands – those minutes, hours and days which comprised the 24 weeks she would exist whilst in prison, Marion Jones-Thompson appears to have one simple choice remaining at this juncture in her life: Marion Jones must give up memory of the life which took her to stadiums in such places as Maebashi, Birmingham, Monaco, Stockholm, Sydney and Bruxelles – which had along with it provided personal excitement generated when thousands once cheered her on inside the arenas and queued outside the hotels she was booked at for autographs and move forward. It benefits her nothing to live predominantly in the past in a sport which she cheated – through BALCO – to make her name, earn her income and collect her valuables.
Retirement from this sport would have been inevitable to Marion Jones, as her body, having twisted, turned, raced and run thousands of times the world round from California to South Africa, and from Mexico to Greece, grows stale, became less flexible and, ultimately, didn’t provide the same spark and drive found in the fountain of youth. Certain athletes – like American middle distance runner Jim Sorensen – still have the steam left in their engines to give chase to records – both personal and those accessible to the world in their categories, but they are a rarity and seem driven by being unable to leave the daily grind of training behind.
Perhaps moving to Austin, Texas, is a great break for Marion Jones-Thompson, as she is addicted to results, and Austin is addicted to the outdoors and sport – sharing more than 200 city parks, nearly 75 miles of maintained hike-and-bike trails, thousands of acres of nature preserves and 2.3 million acre-feet of water surrounding Austin according to the Austin Sports Commission; the city is positioned on the Colorado River, with three lakes within the city limits. She should appreciate the freedom following a lockdown behind prison walls.
Marion Jones-Thompson, who seemingly has put all of her trust in God in her darkest hour, perhaps can hook and reel in people waiting to hear a “terrible” story about shame and guilt, robbery and deception – and turn that opportunity around into gaining support as a person now forgiven and whose faith and values have been restored. Perhaps, leaving her financial destination to God, as she stated, she can serve her community as an ambassador to youth gone wild and gain community support as she delivers messages to wayward teenagers who, themselves, are travelling down a road of becoming slaves to the consequences of their own bad choices.
I hadn’t the slightest idea what Marion Jones-Thompson would do had she reached the stage where she, sans any standard threat of exposure as a cheat, would have been requested to look both left and right and be asked to make a directional choice accordingly. She has, however, already crossed that path, having moved on along following the sale of her last home – leaving only remnants remaining of a life in North Carolina which, to the onlooker who would have peered in at her estate from the dirt road leading down to the murky green water some seconds away, appears to be held together in a broken vase full of shattered hopes and bad dreams.
I, too, stand at a cross-road in this chapter of life, as I’ve dedicated the greater part of a year following a trail which seemed to not have a direct origin, and has ended with a woman taking the liberty granted her by the government of the United States of America – handed down in the state of New York to pursue life and happiness to whatever degree, to what end and to what length she feels can be applicable given the criminal circumstances of her life.
Now that I am compelled to go forth into my next mission – as this one is nearing its maturation, do I believe that Marion Jones owes me any explanations regarding the events which have engulfed her and beleaguered her past?
No. She attempted to provide them to Oprah.
Had Marion Jones provided them, I’d likely be cynical in trusting their validity and authenticity – having a tendency to believe, instead, that her remarks were another well-crafted assist from her counsel weary that their client, who’s been considerably apt to stray away from due north, would say or do something which could be held against her in a court of law. I was, consequently, one who smirked for all the wrong reasons when Marion Jones was at the wishing well and asked – pleaded – for a scientific test to cover all transgressions. Cautious pessimism is the best I could afford any non-specific Marion Jones testimony and explanation she may ever feel compelled to bring about.
I’ve been asked to imagine what it's like for Marion Jones to be charged with a doping violation and to envision what it likely felt like for her to have been caught up in guilt by association – implicated, if you will, for offences that she didn't commit. I’m reminded that she had to appear before a Grand Jury and swore on oath she should not be accused of committing a crime as she was drugs-free; she told the courts that she was not guilty.
I am instructed that my duty is to assess the credibility of each and every witness who can speak positively and negatively of her actions and character, and told to determine the facts from the evidence. I’m advised, however, that I should ignore anyone who could likely have a beef with Marion Jones, as those people who were to speak out on record under oath were either liars who should face jail time or were compelled to speak against their wills. I’m informed that Marion Jones is not on public trial in a kangaroo court for violations of a moral code, but it is that same standard of morality – honesty – with which her attorneys want me to find character witnesses impeachable.
Dick Pound tells those who would believe that a “kangaroo court” existed to think again.
I’m told to ignore all logic and stick with the facts, namely that Marion Jones had never failed a drugs test, and, despite her associations with men who would later become criminal, I should never consider the company which she kept as being any indication of the strength of her character – this despite the fact that the law would give me the right to draw reasonable inferences from the evidences brought up whilst investigating those persons.
Then, when the weight of guilt vs. innocence was at its breaking point – when scattered evidences became very real in the form of a positive test for EPO, I’m told that a great injustice was done to Marion Jones when her result was leaked to the world rather than allowing due process to run its rightful course.
I’m told that Marion Jones became shocked at the news of testing positive – that she was overwhelmed with emotion when it was revealed to her that a chain of custody number corresponding to her name displayed a result of drug usage the top laboratory in the United States – and arguably the world – had determined through borderline interpretation that the result was positive. So shocked, I was told, that one morning in Zürich Marion Jones called someone who cared enough about what had happened to do something about her predicament. That someone was her attorney, who, in his turn, hired an expert to refute the evidence initially discovered and turned “The Day That Track Died” into a legal means for his client to continue her pursuit of economic sustainability.
His client refused, citing loss of form, but was thankful the test taken proved once-and-for-all that she had never taken a drug, period.
That, for me, specifically, ladies and gentlemen, is what suctioned up the collective strewn pieces of half-truths Marion Jones had earlier used to litter the ground she walked on and had them cast out into a pit.
Notwithstanding, Marion Jones has come clean – or at least as close to her version of it as possible given her nature and propensity to embellish and misconstrue truth. She is a self-convicted drugs cheat and money-laundering accomplice.
My advice – as a calloused person whose involvement in this, like you, is in a search for truth – to you is that you tie the knot on any trash bags you, too, may have and drive them far, far away from you to a special place set aside where other dirty, clunky and sealed bags full of polluted things Marion Jones has stated end up on a heap pile.
In spite of this potential prejudice – an opinion I carry which had every possibility of contaminating you as honorary jury members had you been unable to draw your own conclusions without reasonable doubt, take every opportunity afforded you to draw deductions based on each and every one of the facts as they have been presented to you through Marion Jones’s recorded athletics history, times, marks and places compared to her peers, especially when she was out of each of the sport’s echelons – upper, middle or lower – in the 100m and 200m before undertaking an improbable and implausible rise which do not show characteristics for such early success in the absence of means and opportunity; Marion Jones’s own words, denials, admissions and excuses, along with those defensive words used by her attorneys; draw your conclusive points through the testimonies of athletes who’d cheated but turned the other cheek; moreover, follow the reasoning set out by those who have pursued truth and evidence and based their legal decisions thereupon; make informed choices based on county files which are deemed to have been recorded as being true and accurate, and which can be construed as demonstrating a cover up when the events are taken in chronological order; and, finally, panel, judge the facts as you see them based on accuracies to stories told by and for Marion Jones – up to, and including, any which may reveal how one drugs test was categorically and retrospectively able to clear Marion Jones of any potential wrongdoing.