I grew up in a Catholic parish outside of St. Louis, Mo. Father Walsh, this young Irish priest would visit our classroom once a week and talk to us about religion. He also tell us great stories and put up with our nonsensical questions. We liked Father Walsh and his stories. Anything to get us out of regular religion class. The highest respect a kid could get would be to be on Fr. Walsh's pinball team. That meant that, you might get in trouble with Sr. Anne David once in awhile, but overall, you were a pretty good kid.
Well, Doug Logan, USATF's new CEO, just made the pinball team. His letter to President Bush, while in truth, mostly ceremony, is the right gesture. Part of being a CEO is making the right gestures. Logan took a lot of time in the recent press conference noting his concern about drugs in sports. Now that USATF is out of testing-the best thing done in the past administration besides getting USATF on fiscal balance--USATF still must have the most tests, especially out of competition and must lead the way so that drug testing is as transparent as possible.
Marion Jones getting out of jail early is a ludicrous. However, that Barry Bonds, etc. are not in jail is also an example of how sports are viewed in the US. The legal and character issues of professional sports can be satirized on the ESPY awards by Justin Timberlake, and the same reporters who bemoan the supposed drug soaked track surfaces in our sport will write lovingly about a football player who has more DUI's and assault charges than your car has tires.
Kudos to Doug Logan for taking a stand. The message given out if Jones receives a pardon is that drugs do pay, and lying pays too! Marion Jones must be seen receiving a punishment for laws she actually violated, and she has no one to blame but herself. On top of that, to the millions of fans and former friends of hers that defended America's sprint goddess, Marion needs to have repercussions for actions she freely committed. Jones used performance enhancing drugs. Jones lied. Now, she is paying for it.
If Mr. Logan were asking for suggestions, I would humbly suggest the following: He should read up on the new program that Tyson Gay has volunteered for, in regards to USADA and WADA. Gay was given a baseline blood reading and his samples are collected every few weeks in order for WADA and USADA to better test athletes in the future. Any program like this should be applauded by USATF and Mr. Logan, in my mind, should require his top twelve athletes to do the same. USATF athletes need to be squeaky clean-the sport's future is at stake.
An open letter to President Bush
USA Track & Field has written President Bush to express our concern at Marion Jones' application for pardon or commutation of her conviction for making false statements to federal investigators. Make your own voice heard and join USATF in writing to President Bush.
Below is the text of USATF's letter.
Dear President Bush,
They say you can't always believe what you read in the papers. So, when I read that Marion Jones has applied to you for a pardon or commutation of her federal conviction for making false statements to investigators, I couldn't believe it. She lied to federal agents. She took steroids. She made false statements in a bank fraud investigation - not necessarily in that order. She admitted it. And now she apparently wants to be let off.
As the new CEO of USA Track & Field, I have a moral and practical duty to make the case against her request.
With her cheating and lying, Marion Jones did everything she could to violate the principles of track and field and Olympic competition. When she came under scrutiny for doping, she taunted any who doubted her purity, talent and work ethic. Just as she had succeeded in duping us with her performances, she duped many people into giving her the benefit of the doubt.
She pointed her finger at us, and got away with it until federal investigators teamed up with USADA and finally did her in. It was a sad thing to watch, the most glorious female athlete of the 20th century in tears on courthouse steps.
Our country has long turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of our heroes. If you have athletic talent or money or fame, the law is applied much differently than if you are slow or poor or an average American trying to get by. At the same time, all sports have for far too long given the benefit of the doubt to its heroes who seem too good to be true, even when common sense indicates they are not.
To reduce Ms. Jones' sentence or pardon her would send a horrible message to young people who idolized her, reinforcing the notion that you can cheat and be entitled to get away with it. A pardon would also send the wrong message to the international community. Few things are more globally respected than the Olympic Games, and to pardon one of the biggest frauds perpetuated on the Olympic movement would be nothing less than thumbing our collective noses at the world.
In my new job as CEO of USA Track & Field, I must right the ship that Ms. Jones and other athletes nearly ran aground. I implore you, Mr. President: Please don't take the wind out of our sails.
Douglas G. Logan
CEO, USA Track & Field