After repeated denials of steroid use, Marion Jones has finally admitted that she did in fact use steroids during her career. In a letter to friends and family, Jones disclosed her steroid use before the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. She won five medals, including three golds.
Friday, she pleaded guilty on two charges of lying to investigators — one on doping and the other on a check fraud scheme. She also announced her retirement. Facing up to six months in prison, terms of her plea bargain say she will be sentenced to only three. She might have company. Her former coach Trevor Graham — the person who supplied her with the juice — is to be tried for lying to federal agents in the U.S. government’s BALCO steroid investigation.
It was simply a matter for time before Jones would reach this point. BALCO founder Victor Conte accused Jones of doping — even declaring that he saw her use it. Her former boyfriend Tim Montgomery had already admitted to using steroids to the United States Anti-Doping Agency and was banned from competition for two years. Montgomery retired from competition and was stripped of all medals and results retroactive to March 31, 2001.
Graham’s other clients Michelle Collins and Justin Gatlin had already received bans from competition. With so many people around her being summarily taken down by the government, it was tough to see Jones fight so hard to maintain her innocence.
Jones had already lost all credibility by testing positive for EPO (erythropoietin) in 2006. Her backup sample tested negative which supposedly exonerated her, but that’s another issue related to the reliability of testing methods (as Floyd Landis repeatedly argues). But even if she didn’t admit to steroid use, merely by being associated with so many suspected and proven steroid suppliers and users, she had already lost the fight.
The IOC (Internal Olympic Committee) is set to strip Jones of her Olympic medals. The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Foundation) is also ready to strip titles and medals from other international competitions. Anyone who thinks she shouldn’t be stripped can just look to the recent stripping of Floyd Landis’ Tour de France gold medal by the ICU (International Cycling Union).
On a side note, who voted in favor of Landis in that 2-1 panel decision?
Jones should be treated no differently. Why she waited so long to tell the truth is beyond me. Her reasons seem honest enough. She panicked and backed herself into a corner. Anyone can sympathize, but then again anyone isn’t a former Olympic champion who was a hero to many young girls wanting to be like her. She could redeem herself by being the one athlete-spokesperson against steroid use, unlike the many others who repeatedly deny all accusations. Unless these athletes are really innocent, I don’t see how they can look anyone in the eye and not tell the truth.
The baseball world refers to the 90s as the steroids era. But that term shouldn’t just refer to baseball, since the problem appears more widespread than most people realize. But the federal investigations will continue to look like a witch hunt until more A-list athletes are found guilty, or at least named. The Scott Schoeneweises of the world can rest assured that the government isn’t really after them, but more interested in the Barry Bondses. A clean sports world is a good thing, but it might be impossible for sports to ever seem pure again because our society has produced a numbers-infatuated (statistics, money) culture that will constantly look toward that edge for guidance.
But the real moral of the story is to tell the truth. No, wait, actually it is to beware the feds. With no reliable testing for HGH (human growth hormone) and other designer steroids, unless someone “credible” testifies to seeing you using it, no one can prove you did otherwise. Well, not unless you’re dumb enough to use a steroid that can be tested (à la Rafael Palmeiro) or be caught having a shipment sent to your house (Jason Grimsley). If you’re smarter than them, you’re pretty much in the clear.