Erasing Seven Years of One's Life-Marion Jones Gets Her Due


On Friday, November 23, 2007, the IAAF announced their deliberations regarding Marion Jones. I have included the complete decision, in english and french, in a link at the end of my blog today....

Erasing Seven Years of One's Life-Marion Jones Gets Her Due

As one grows up, many parents try to instill into their children that there are repercussions for their actions. This should be a universal lesson, but alas, it is not. Also, some parents are successful in teaching their kids right from wrong, and at the very least, that the shame of doing something wrong might stop someone from doing something stupid.

Marion Jones chose, for her own reasons, and like many other athletes, to cheat in the sport that she loved and she made her living in. She did this for a myriad of reasons, some clear, some not so clear. Somewhere in the mix, she must have heard a) everyone uses them and b) you can not achieve your goals without using them. She was also given this series of defenses of drug use by someone in a position of power, most notably, a coach, or trainer.

Now, do not get me wrong. Marion Jones is not a victim here. She used the drug protocols, she knew what she was doing, and she must pay the price. However, part of the lie is that everyone is using drugs. Most athletes can not afford the drugs that can beat WADA or USADA drug protocols. Out-of-competition drug testing, and blood testing that notes changes in the blood chemistry should be the way rigorous drug testing is pursued. Draconian punishments, doing something akin to a public scourging, for both athlete and coach, should also be in order. The effect that Marion Jones' downfall will play should not be underestimated.

The IAAF announced on Friday afternoon, that Marion Jones had lost all records and results achieved between Septemeber 1, 2000 and present. That means she looses her five Olympic medals, three gold, two bronze, her World championship medals go away and, in its most controversal move, taking aways medals of the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 meter relays. This last case, the IAAF is recommending that the IOC take the medals back from her teammates in the 4 x 100 meters and 4 x 400 meters in Sydney.

My thoughts on this are that the other athletes did not get popped for drugs, why should they pay, but then, the only way to show that enforcement is serious is to take away the medals. I am not completely sold on taking away medals of the other athletes on the relay teams.

Is this Draconian? Yes, the message is that when, and if the elite athlete is caught, then the effects on their career is permanent. Cheating has its consequences. This is no different than a passion play in a village festival in the middle ages. The results today are that a sobbing Marion Jones is shown on 550 television stations, once an hour for few days and she will make every top ten bad moments list in sports. It is the theatre of shame.

The prepondarence of evidence suggests that drug use is prevalent at the highest level of our sport, and that the global and US drug agencies are woefully underfunded. New technologies arise and old methods return: there is the suggestion that the old form of blood doping, freezing one's old blood and months later reinfusing it, is back. Drugs used for psychological disorders are now the rumoured drugs of choice for elite athletes.

On several stages over the past few years, including a series of well written and researched articles in the Financial Times, the suggestion of letting athletes use whatever drugs they want to use has been tested. I am totally against that. Either we have sports that celebrate good sportsmanship and and even playing field, or we are akin to Romans at a circus, watching the gladiators and lions.

The announcement last week that a company in Iceland can map your entire DNA for 1000 US, and the ethical and unethical uses of that have come to light. In the not too distant future, will parents be able to order the brain of Einstein, the creativity of a Lucian Freud and the lungs of a Kenenisa Bekele? Something about that sounds wrong,

In an tribute to the American distance runner Mark Nenow turning 50, one well known writer said that in talking to Nenow about drugs in sport, it was obvious to him that Nenow had not even considered using drugs. Why? Sport was just not importnat. How refeshing. In its' current context, perhaps all sport has become too important. Living a good and honest life, spending time with someone and raising a family seem to be way underrated.

In the end, I wish no ill will to Marion Jones. I hope that she finds a way to come to peace with her wrong doing, accepts it, and lives her second life, her non sports life, with good works and good thoughts. Perhaps she will take the path, as sprinter Lauryn Williams has suggested, of telling the world why she did it, how she did and become the poster child of why not to use performance enhancing drugs while competing would be a good outcome of this sad story.

A final comment. If one believes, whatever their religious values, that man and women have free will, have choices in their lives, this is an example of the roads that can be taken. Marion Jones could have gone down, in my mind, as the greatest women athlete of her generation, without the use of performance enhancing drugs. The problem was, Marion Jones did not believe in Marion Jones.

For the complete transcript from the IAAF:

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