Story by Eric.
(This is the 25th 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.)
Among the list of numerous accolades Marion Jones collected for her Sydney efforts by means of deception and fraud was winning the 21st Jesse Owens Award for being the world's best Olympic sport athlete. She also won the 19th edition Jesse Owens Award two years earlier (as did John Godina, a USADA Anti-doping Athlete Ambassador, who’d gone undefeated in the shot put and discus in 1998) in what appears to also have been through deception and fraud.
Moreover, she’d won the hearts of millions of Australians, as the Olympics were to be recognition of the athletes as the stars of the Games, and to show Australia's love of sport and admiration for sporting achievement. Marion Jones, in seeking five gold medals, was recognized as the star of the Games, and received the love and admiration bestowed upon victors and those demonstrating valiance under imminent pressure to perform at their utmost against all odds and against all challengers, though all of this was accomplished whilst harboring a lie, and done through deception and fraud.
Marion Jones even took time out to grant a Make-A-Wish Foundation® recipient a three-hour block of time while she was in Sydney. Marion Jones was presented a necklace with a shoe on it and a stuffed tiger by her pen-pal, a leukaemia patient from Ithaca, NY. Marion Jones presented the pen-pal with the track spikes she had worn in the 4x400m relay, and permitted the girl to handle Marion Jones’s Olympic gold medals – rather the gold medals which belonged to the runners-up in those races which Marion Jones had stolen by method of deception and fraud.
How repulsive it is that Marion Jones, providing a wish to a person whose only goal was to meet the best athlete in the world and make her smile, stood there before the recipient and lied through her teeth about being such a person.
The impact she had from her Australian achievements were so far-reaching, that the revelation of how they were accomplished were equally as devastating.
“If the reports are accurate and if she does in fact acknowledge steroid use at the Sydney Olympic Games then that's a good thing,” Coates said.
“But it's still very, very disappointing for all of the athletes that competed against her.
“I don't think an acknowledgment now will ever right the injustice for those other ladies.”
“I would expect that the IOC would re-open ... an investigation which I think they did commence in respect of her at the end of 2004 and I would hope the medals would be taken away.”
Coats’s wish was granted on Monday, 2007-October-08 when Marion Jones’s attorney, Henry DePippo, stated that Marion Jones had, in fact, relinquished each of her medals.
Pauline Davis-Thompson of the Bahamas stood to be the gold medal benefactor in the 200m; Russia’s Tatiana Kotova, the new bronze medal recipient; and Thanou, mentioned earlier, as the possible 100m champion despite her own drugs scandal from four years later.
Davis-Thompson, as Privalova, was not enthusiastic about how she “won” her new medal.
“I don't like winning a gold medal this way - this is not my style at all. I like to lace my shoes up and gun for it,” she said. “I am still amazed by these turn of events. It is just such a tragedy. Who would have thought something like his would happen,” she added shockingly.
Davis-Thompson had, as did the other competitors Marion Jones robbed of their 10 seconds of fame, worked an entire career for those 100 metres of racing, with a lifetime of sweat and tears along with an iron will all on the line to be the first one to the tape, and to have what would be considered a very profitable destiny awaiting her.
Marion Jones followed up her “Drive For Five” – her attempt at becoming the first-ever track and field athlete to win five gold medals at one Olympic Games – with another IAAF World Championships run, this time an “upset” 2nd place in Edmonton (10,85) to 1997 runner-up Zhanna Pintusevich-Block.
Marion Jones was still on the undetectable steroid, “the clear”, but was off her game.
Marion Jones did steal the 200m, by means of deception and fraud, and added another ledger to her World title collection (22,39), however – a medal of which she was stripped as though she were never even there.
Due to her performance annulment, disgraced Thanou may move up to silver medallist in the 100m; Debbie Ferguson would move up to 200m victor; and Germany would be declared 4x100m champions after the United States quartet lost its medals as a result of Marion Jones’s having participated on the team.
Through fraud and deceit Marion Jones was able to be the benefactor of numerous awards, accolades and fair-sportsmanship honours leading up to – and following – the Olympics.
Marion Jones was selected as a Sports Ethics Fellow for National Sportsmanship Day by the Institute for International Sport in 2003 for being one of several outstanding individuals who were selected as ambassadors of ethics, sportsmanship, and fair play, and who commit to the expansion and promotion of National Sportsmanship Day.
According to their website, Sports Ethics Fellows are selected in conjunction with the Institute’s National Sportsmanship Day (NSD) “Dare to Play Fair” programme. As part of the annual event, more than 10,000 elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities from all 50 U.S. states and more than 100 countries, celebrated the importance of ethics, honesty, peaceful conflict resolution and fair play in athletics and society along with Marion Jones.
“Good sportsmanship is the way to go no matter what sport you are playing. It's all about putting your energy and passion into your sport, but at the same time playing fairly and showing respect to your teammates and competitors. Without sportsmanship, nobody wins.”
Marion Jones dared to play rough, tough and with deceit – factors which are at complete odds to the scope and nature of the award which she was presented. Would it be fitting for Marion Jones to volunteer at each of the subsequent sportsmanship events and discuss with those same impressionable teens and young adults from around the world the consequences of lacking ethics, being honest and playing unfairly in athletics – and to do this until such time as it became ingrained in her head?
Unfortunately, Marion Jones is adept at saying exactly what one wants to hear, including to Oprah...twice.
Popular international talk-show host Oprah Winphrey invited Marion Jones, a convicted felon and cheat who will be separated from her two children for six months as she pays society back for crimes she committed against it in the form of misstating the truth on two occasions, to grace her show on 2008-January-16 to discuss the legal issues that led to her jail sentence. This was Marion Jones's first interview since being sentenced less than a week earlier to a six-month prison sentence.
Oprah took it upon herself to strike gold on her third attempt with a woman many in America felt sorry for and wanted to reach out and touch. Oprah made that happen for a woman who will say what you want to hear and ride out on a stream of emotions fit for the minute to add the finishing touches to her believability.
Marion Jones put the right touches on the conversation, mentioning tears, fears and going astray – and how much it has affected her new husband.
Oprah briefly made an inquiry of the charges to which Marion Jones was ultimately held responsible, to which Marion Jones pleaded guilty and for which she had been sentenced. Unfortunately, Oprah was unable to be provided good research advice ahead of the program, and missed out on a grand opportunity to put Marion Jones on the spot and frankly ask Marion for proof that she didn't dope from 1997-2000.
Oprah should have requested of Marion Jones to prove that she was not lying about any other time frame in her history - not by method of Polygraph tests or the good words others put in, but concrete proof that Marion climbed up the international ladder fairly, squarely, and without the aid or assistance of any drugs - their legal status or discovery at the time she was competing notwithstanding.
Marion Jones won't be able to answer that question honestly however, as what she stated on the show could have been used against her by Trevor Graham's lawyers when his trial set off in June, 2008. Recall again, Marion Jones lost her right to plead the Fifth in Graham's trial when she has pleaded guilty to the charges levied against her by the U.S. government.
It was purported that Graham would have likely stated that Marion used steroids from 1997-onward in an effort which serves two purposes: 1) Keeping himself from perjuring himself; 2) Ensuring Marion is implicated for having drawn a line in the sand pointing at Graham as the sole responsible party for her Sydney 2000 successes.
Oprah's international audience heard Marion Jones speak of having lied when she shouldn't have - something she earlier said outside of the Federal courthouse following pleading guilty was “incredibly stupid”, but she did not take responsibility then – or on the talk show – for her drug-taking. Oprah needed to drive the sword through that lie and help Marion take responsibility for her own actions rather than avoid it and pass her woes off as being the fault of everyone else but her.
Marion Jones told Oprah that, instead of spending time dwelling on the past (having to answer even more questions about matters the court system is not yet wise to), told Oprah that she wants to look forward.
“I truly think that a person's character is determined by their admission of their mistakes and then beyond that, what do I do about it? You know, how can I change the lives of people? How can I use my story to change the lives of a young person?”
Marion Jones displayed a lot about her character on the show, which she did not attend – rather was linked via video-conference: Admitting that to which is known, not to that which she continues to harbor and keep secret. She made public the fact that she lied, and she re-iterated having made a mistake, but she has not stated that she took performance-enhancing drugs – the real concern here, not the lying.
The next best help along the way appears to be a close friend to Oprah, namely Doctor Phil.
Marion Jones, who is not known to have been invited to his one-hour television program, would likely have landed in a 10-minute-attempt-to-fix scenario which sees her say she'd lied, but had never willingly cheated.
Looking back at Marion Jones’s career, a seasoned fan has likely taken a good look at the numbers she put up alone and is able to relate to the strength, genes, conditioning, speed, agility, focus and skill that is demanded of a human body to run 10,65 seconds from a dead-start to the finish line 100m down a track.
Most high school male sprinters – the appropriate age-group and gender to compare to elite women sprinter – will never run 10,65 seconds or faster for their given discipline, despite their numerous accolades and victories achieved in their four-year careers at that level – one comparative to that of elite female track and field athletes. The ones who do have that gift are fewer than 30 per season in the United States.
If you’ve taken a look at such ability, take a second and imagine, if you will, exactly what it would take for a female athlete to run 10,65 seconds for the 100m dash, considering the physical factors and stresses placed on the body and the few competitive opportunities available to push and be pulled along to negotiate such times.
Marion Jones was certainly on pace to sprint 100m under 11,00 seconds had she continued on consistently in her select event past high school, and with both natural progress and good coaching. She had what appeared to be the talent to accomplish this task provided she continued to develop her skills, mature in physical stature, put in the time and effort to achieve this, and, ultimately, have ample opportunity to push harder through consistent racing.
There is a strong likelihood that Marion Jones could have run under 11,00 seconds with consistent racing and uninterrupted training opportunities over a given period of time. She had run close to this barrier as a high school athlete, but had missed considerable time in the development and racing stages while at the University of North Carolina.
Despite missing opportunity, and despite having a physical condition base adverse to elite-level sprinting, Marion Jones was able to break 11,00 seconds for the first time in her career, and break that barrier a grand total of 11 times that season with a minimum level of training compared to other world-class athletes of her generation. Marion Jones also had one wind-aided time faster than 11 seconds in 1997 in addition to her legal marks.
Several valid questions arise from this:
Is it possible that a female sprinter who had never approached her high school bests run under 11,00 seconds for the first time ever in only a matter of a couple months after a very long lay-off – and three times in the same championships, nonetheless? Could she accomplish this an additional 10 times – including a world-leading time – after twice breaking her foot in the months leading up to her comeback, which, again, was after a long lay-off? If she could, why was she unable to replicate that under better circumstances when she had had more training, more racing, and had a baby – the catalyst, according to her last coach, for exceptional rebuilding and incredible strength?
Could a female athlete, through willpower alone, perform at a level improbable for even the slightly sceptical believer?
According to Marion Jones, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
“And so after I graduated college in 1997 and made the decision to compete in athletics full time, I knew that it was more than just running out there on the track, I knew I was out there for a reason. And perhaps at twenty-one years old I didn't realise what that reason was. I knew I enjoyed track and field, I enjoyed my sports, but I knew deep down that I was out there for a deeper more meaningful reason.”
“And so in June of 200 [sic] when I made my first Olympic team, and it was my first, I still wondered, gosh it's a wonderful sport and I'm having a ball, but why, why am I doing all of this? And so in September of 2000 when I travelled to Sydney, Australia and I went in there with the bold statement of saying I was going to win five gold medals, I still wondered, why am I really, really doing this? I'm loving it, I'm having a ball, but there is something more, I can't really put my hand on it? And so I crossed the finish line for the hundred metres final and I won by the way (crowd and Marion laughs)... And I crossed that finish line and immediately saw my family I knew what it was all about (voice breaking)...it was about family. (Crowd cheers).”
No. It wasn’t. It was about steroids, money and power...pure adulterated greed. Family was used as the backdrop when all of the cards crumbled before her seven years later.
Story by Eric.