On Erasing Marion's Records, part deux-a response

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I am now over 160 days of blogging, one hour or so a day, at least. One of my most prolific topic is Marion Jones. Earlier this week,I suggested that clearing the records and life of Marion Jones from the record book, while perhaps good to fellow competitors, allows the sport to forget who she was. I also suggested that the IAAF deleting here records was similar to Mr. Josef Stalin in the good old Soviet Union and his rewriting of
history....reader Chris Lundstrom did not agree and here, in his letter to me, which he allowed to be published, is his reasoning:

Larry,

I receive your blog via email and enjoy your insights. However, I disagree with the opinion expressed in "On Erasing Marion Jones' Records" and I've written this letter to express why...( letter from Chris Lundstrom)

Dear Larry,

In a recent entry, you liken erasing Marion Jones’ records to the re-writing of history done in the Stalinist Soviet Union. I agree emphatically that we should not forget Marion Jones. We should not remove her photo from reprints of books and magazines. We should not pretend that she never existed. However, I believe there is a huge difference between re-writing the history books and removing records set by athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs.

IAAF-recognized marks and records must meet a vast array of criteria to be considered official and record-quality. The meet must be conducted in a certain way and the event must be contested in precise conformity with the rules and protocols established by the governing body. There is a limit to the permissible tailwind, for example. In other words, creating the conditions for a legal, record-quality mark is an extremely difficult process.

Should we cast aside these rules? Hardly. The IAAF has good reason for all of the controls, rules, and regulations that they have established. Records are meant to recognize supreme performances. Any process of fairly determining the best statistical performances requires a consistent manner of contestation. Failure to follow the rules rightly disqualifies the mark from record consideration.

You suggest that we place an asterisk next to Marion Jones’ marks, but leave them in the record book. In my opinion, that would be akin to measuring the long jump of an athlete who has clearly scratched, and including that in the record book with an asterisk. Given the performance-enhancing nature of Jones’ violation, it would actually be like measuring the jump not from the point of takeoff, but back at the board, where the athlete should have left the ground.

Jones is in some ways like the athlete who has his best jump nullified by a scratch. Was it a great jump? Certainly. But it cannot count. The jumper is saddened by what could have been. It is unfortunate and indeed saddening to think of the waste of a great jump, or in the case of Marion Jones, the waste of a great career. She was a great sprinter, but we’ll never know just how great she actually was because she failed to follow the rules.

The decision to include the asterisked marks of performance-enhancing drug users in the record books would carry with it certain consequences. Marion Jones is not the first and will not be the last record-setter to be caught, so it stands to reason that the record book could become rather weighed down by asterisks in time. One major problem with this is that recognizing those marks in official records, even with an asterisk, legitimizes them in a way that they do not warrant. A corollary to this is that the young athlete and student of the sport will encounter an asterisk-laden record book, and undoubtedly will receive the message that great performances require pharmaceutical assistance. As for the asterisk? It’s simply a wink that says, “don’t get caught!”

Chris Lundstrom

Athlete, writer, and coach


My response--Okay Chris, I agree, nicely put! However, what about a piece on the sad story of Marion Jones and her records and what was taken away? Somehow, we have to use this as an example of what can happen when athletes and their staffs believe that the are above the law, ethics and deserve to be treated 'differently'.

Part of our problem in this country is our worship of the athlete. Why is it that some athletes can put sports in the proper perspective and others can not?

LE

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