Hey, Judge….Where Are Your Priorities????

By Dr. Boyce Watkins
Updated: January 12, 2008

NEW YORK — Marion Jones, former Olympic champion, has been sent to prison for six months for lying about using steroids and being involved in a check fraud scam.

While one might be tempted to believe that the prison time was due to the perjury issue and the check fraud problems, the words of Federal Judge Kenneth Karas lead one to conclude otherwise.

When handing down the sentence, Karas mentioned that the maximum would be given in order to set an example for other athletes who use drugs. He argued that Jones and others have overlooked the values of “hard work, dedication, teamwork and sportsmanship.”

In other words, he was sending Marion Jones, mother of two young children, to prison to make an example out of her. Jones cried like Paris Hilton (the drunken driver who could have killed someone behind the wheel), but unlike Hilton, she was not let out of jail in 30 minutes.

By his statements, the judge was attempting to argue that Jones has poor values and lacks hard work and dedication. And I thought it only happened to black males.

The judges words remind me of the ridiculous sports commentator who describes the team from Princeton as the one with great intellect, team work and commitment, while describing the team from Georgetown as the one with great athletic ability.

He reminds me of Fox Sports commentator Joe Buck, who described Randy Moss as a “disgusting” human being, yet he acts as if Brett Favre and Tom Brady are the second coming of Jesus.

I saw Marion Jones being regularly insulted on Fox News after allegations of steroid use. They too attempted to argue that Jones has poor character and is just a bad person.

All the while, they spent almost no time scrutinizing their heroes, Lance Armstrong (for whom the allegations of drug use are endless, quite probable and regularly overlooked) and Roger Clemens (the 40-something pitcher who plays like he’s 18 years old – one of the textbook symptoms of steroid abuse).

I love a good double standard when I see one. America has always been good at that. Marion Jones should not have used steriods, yes. The problem is that steroid abuse is rampant in professional baseball, football and track.

Any athlete hoping to compete at the highest levels is forced to find a way to match up to the drugged up athletes around them. That is a simple fact. Many of your greatest sports heroes were doped up in a major way, and you will never know.

Secondly, labs are all over the world that focus entirely on the task of creating designer drugs that avoid detection in traditional tests. BALCO just happened to be the one that got raided, but it was not the only lab in existence.

Do you think that all those other labs went out of business after BALCO got raided by the FBI? Yeah right.

Finally, the governing bodies responsible for managing drug abuse among athletes did not do their jobs effectively. Major League Baseball could have done much more to stop the steroid craze of the nineties, but the “cha-chings” of filling parks with big time sluggers may have led them to put the steroid testing issue on the back burner.

I honestly believe that they could have stopped the problem if they’d wanted to, but the money was just too good. If you are looking for a place to put the “low character” label, start with the commissioner’s office.

Bottom line: Before you cast value judgements on Marion Jones or Barry Bonds, be sure to spread those judgments equally. I would like to see the same critical eyeballs on Roger Clemens, Lance Armstrong and others who have been accused of doping.

Barry Bonds and Marion Jones were great natural talents, who had amazing careers before drug use became an issue. These are two forthright individuals who may have likely felt the need to use drugs in order to keep up with the pack.

By judging them so harshly and isolating these two individuals as the sole keepers of poor character, you are effectively arriving late to a fight and only punishing the child who threw the last counterpunch.

If Marion Jones has poor character, then so do many other American heroes. Judge Karas is wrong and racist in his assessment, and as a black man, I tire of having individuals like him questioning the character of my people.

He should probably start by questioning his own.