The Rise and Fall of Marion Jones

By Carla Peay
Updated: October 10, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Track and field superstar Marion Jones stood before an army of television cameras last Friday and pled guilty in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., to lying to federal investigators when she denied that she had used performance enhancing drugs.

Jones admitted to taking steroids from September 2000 to July 2001 and said she was told by former coach Trevor Graham that she was taking flaxseed oil when it was actually the steroid THG. Jones claimed she didn’t realize she was taking performance-enhancing drugs until November of 2003.

The darling of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia , Jones won five medals, three gold and two bronze. Now, she is reportedly broke, disgraced, and could be facing prison time.

What makes Jones’ admission so difficult for everyone who believed she was clean was the passion and vehemence with which she proclaimed her innocence, even going so far as to file a lawsuit against Victor Conte and the infamous BALCO laboratory.

“I have never, ever used performance enhancing drugs,” Jones said defiantly in 2004 in her grand jury testimony in the BALCO investigation. Last year, Jones had a urine sample test positive for EPO, but her backup sample came up negative. But claiming her conscience was bothering her, Jones finally told the truth. Or at least, some of it.

“It’s with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust. I have been dishonest, and you have the right to be angry with me. I have let my family down. I have let my country down, and I have let myself down,” a teary eyes Jones said after her hearing, at which point she also announced her retirement.

But the most disturbing thing about Jones’ admission of guilt is that she still has yet to take full responsibility for her actions. Throughout her testimony and her subsequent statements, Jones still lays much of the blame at the feet of Graham, using the oh-so-tired excuse that she didn’t “knowingly” take performance enhancing drugs. That she trusted her coach.

So, how many world class athletes does this make now who are simply popping pills, spreading on the cream, putting the clear underneath their tongues and sticking themselves with needles that claim to have no clue what they are taking? Forgive me, but I’ve lost count.

I believe I first heard this saying sometime during Watergate (and by the way, when are we going to stop sticking the word “gate” at the end of every scandal? Enough already, but I digress) that it’s not the crime, it’s the cover up.

At this point, it would almost be a refreshing novelty to see an athlete who gets caught cheating simply say, “I knew what I was taking. I take full responsibility for what I did.”

I’m also not as impressed as some of my colleagues who are applauding Jones for returning her medals, apologizing to her competitors, and asking to have her records vacated. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was going to do that anyway.

It’s often been said that this is a country that believes in forgiveness and second chances, especially in the world of sports. We’ll forgive almost anything if it’s accompanied by honesty, contrition and taking full responsibility for your actions.

I’ve yet to hear Jones say that despite what Graham may have told her, she knew she was taking steroids, instead of expecting us to believe she spent years thinking it was flaxseed oil.

If Jones thinks this mess she’s in is more Trevor Graham’s fault than hers, then she’s still lying, both to herself and to us.