I first met Marion Jones in 1991, as she was on the cover of our magazine, American Track & Field as a sophomore in high school. In an article written by Doug Speck, we introduced the young athlete to the world. In 1997, when she won her gold medals at the World Champs, we featured her on a cover from Athens.
Sitting in my offices are her American Athletics athlete of the year award from 1994….
Marion Jones will be the focus of much recrimination and alot of commentators calling for the banning of track and field and how Marion has destroyed the sport. The feeding frenzy over the next weeks will be horrific.
In 1999, I believe, I spent a few minutes with CJ Hunter watching Marion long jump at one of the US meets. CJ and I got along fine, I spoke to him about the shot put, and he told me how Marion was a bit afraid of the long jump.
I believed then, and still believe that Marion Jones is the most talented women athlete that I have ever seen. That she took steriods, actually a series of designer drugs, takes away from her talent. She could have won all of those medals legally, but she did not believe that and neither did her support staff.
Steroids do not make the athlete. They allow an athlete to recover faster thereby giving them more time to train. But there are many side effects, some that we do not know about.
It is pretty disengenuous to say that drug testing does not work. In 90 percent of the cases, out of competition drug testing works as it breaks any cycling that is done, or that an athlete stays on a drug for 21-28 days and then goes off for a period of time.
Anyone who is caught in a championship drug testing is just an idiot.
In terms of how this affects our sport of track and field. Athletes who are cheating, who are trying to break the rules, will continue to do it, but it has gotten that more expensive. To the tune of at least $40-$60k a year. To focus on the top athletes, and do out of competition testing is key.
Marion Jones and her sad story has shown that the drug testing authorities are relentless and that no athlete is safe. It will also give the young athletes coming up solace to know that the sport is working very hard to clean itself up.
Marion Jones has been a marquee athlete, the best of her generation. She will be blamed for everything now, including global warming. In truth, she made a sad series of decisions, her decisions, and she and her team should pay the price. She has hurt a sport many of us love and she should pay the piper.