Marion in La-La Land, by Pat Butcher, note by Larry Eder

Jones_Marion-ugh-USOT04.JPG                       Marion Jones, Olympic Trials 2004, photo by

I have to admit, Pat Butcher is one of my favorite journalists. And his most recent column, on Marion Jones, published on, he is right on. Over the past few months, Marion Jones has begun trying to clean up her reputation. I am sorry, when Marion Jones is mentioned, I feel a little sick to my stomach. USADA and WADA never got her on drug use, they got her on perjury.

What is personally painful is that I have written about Marion since she was a sophomore in high school. Jones was, and is, one of the most talented athletes ever in sports. I still believe that Marion Jones could have won the same number of medals without the support of banned substances. She just continues to show kids that drugs work, and that it is the only way to do it.

Banned drugs allow one to recover from workouts faster. In a given year, they give an athlete an extra hard day a week, which could be huge.  Marion Jones had the supreme talent to beat her competition. That is the big lie about banned drugs. Some athletes believe that they can not compete without them, or that, everyone is using them.

 Drug testing is catching many drug cheats, but not enough. USADA and WADA need to have more money to develop testing that can survive legal inquiries. People do cheat, and some cheaters are supported by larger groups. Cheaters need money to avoid positive tests (to pay for pharmaceutical help).  The insidiousness of drug use is that any great performance is suspect in our sport. It is sad.

It still comes down to ethics. Sports is supposed to be about chasing our personal limits, not what EPO, HGH and soon, gene therapy will be able to do to enhance performances. Cheating is cheating, no matter what name is put on it. The money in sports, and the media worship of athletes is also part of the problem. Young athletes see older athletes doing all types of behavior and see that, all that seems to matter is their sports performance. Since money rules the world, then any way of attaining that success, is, in some minds, okay. 

Not true. A jerk is a jerk whether they have run 45 seconds for the quarter, thrown a javelin 300 feet or run the 100 meters in ten seconds or less. In fact, many athletes believe that they have to live at a higher standard, due to the young athletes and fans. Many of our top athletes believe that, yes, they (sorry I am stealing this) have to answer to a higher authority. 

Marion Jones hurt our sport. Especially high school kids, who worshiped her, were hurt over her revelations. But they were half truths. Marion Jones never admitted her use, and she, on the recent TV talk shows, still has not been, in my humble opinion, honest. That is, however, up to her, and only Marion Jones can look herself in the mirror.

So, read Pat Butcher's commentary and let us know what you think! To read more of Pat Butcher's columns, please go to!


By Pat Butcher

It's that time of the year for folk tales and fairy stories, notably the one about the jolly, red-suited old guy with the white whiskers, who rides across the sky in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.


In the unlikely event of telling that tale to someone who'd never heard of him, the listener might well enquire as to what mind-altering substances you were taking, or to put it in street parlance, what are you on?

Speaking of old guys with white whiskers puts me in mind of Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll, who probably was on something, when he wrote his oneiric stories about Alice in Wonderland for the credulous young daughters of an Oxford university colleague.

Dodgson lived in Victorian England at a time when opium and laudanum were common currency. Two decades earlier in the US, Edgar Allan Poe was alleged to have used similar substances in the creation of rather more sinister tales than Alice drinking 'tea' with white rabbits, a scenario brought vividly up to date for my indulgent generation forty years ago by Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane.

All of which brings us inevitably to Marion Jones, whose folk tale involves taking body-altering substances, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), but which seems to have included a fair amount of mind-altering drugs, given the fairy stories that she has been retailing to anyone who will listen.

2006 Hengelo Grand Prix Hengelo, Holland   May 28, 2006 Photo: J

We don't need to revisit the litany of her 'crimes' here, they has been amply recorded by people like Joe Battaglia (see link below). And I've seen enough weird couplings to believe that it wasn't necessarily paternal abandonment at an early age which drove an attractive, athletic young woman into the arms of a character like CJ Hunter, who even a Poe might have trouble fictionalising. Another folk tale there, perhaps; Beauty and the Beast? But enough of ten-cent psychology.

We all want to rewrite our history, even at the simple level exemplified by the popular tee-shirt motto, 'The older I get the better I was'.

F Scott Fitzgerald memorably wrote, 'There are no second acts in American lives'. Oprah Winfrey has made herself a millionaire many times over while proving Fitzgerald wrong. And Winfrey was one of the first targets for Ms Jones and her image-rebuilders as they set out to create her second act.

But Jones' denials of culpability which come close to second degree perjury - and she might recall that her first degree perjury earned her six months in the pen - put me in mind of Flo-Jo's contention to Larry King that her new-found physique and unfeasible speed were the result of 5000 sit-ups a day.

2006 USA Championships Indianapolis, IN  June 21-25, 2006 Photo:

Ho, Ho, Ho, as the white-whiskered old gent in the red suit might respond.

Now, the crucial ingredients in the recipe for creating a second act in an American life are admission of guilt, followed by abject apology and a plea for forgiveness. It even worked for Trickie-Dickie Nixon!

So until Ms Jones finds herself some smarter advisors, or better still, starts taking a substance that will induce her to tell the truth, she might as well go back to where she began as a girl no older than Alice, ie the 'burbs of Los Angeles, to write her fairy story.

Might I suggest a title? Marion in La-La Land.

Photos of Marion Jones courtesy of, unless otherwise noted. 

Original column located at


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