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Jones’ doping confession continues slow, sad fall

Published: October 12, 2007
Section: Sports


I find it sad, and incredibly symbolic of the sports age we live in, that Olympic champion Marion Jones last week admitted to doping and returned the five medals she had won in 2000, yet the story made hardly a ripple in anyones consciousness. Some sports writers called for Jones head, others applauded her belated ethicality, but most people just ignored the whole thing.

So here, in the proverbial nutshell, is what happened. Jones, the darling of the 2000 Sydney games, admitted that she (joining upstanding superstars Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, and Jason Giambi) benefited from the products provided by the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, or BALCO for short. BALCO made two kinds of steroids, The Clear and The Cream, which promote muscle growth. Jones claims, like Bonds, that she was given the steroids by her trainer, and that she thought she was taking flaxseed oil.

Flaxseed oil? Really? And you explained the big post-puberty muscle spurt away how?

In a wonderfully ironic twist of fate, the 100 meter medal that Jones won, under typical Olympic protocol, should now go to Greeces Ekaterini Thanou. However, before the 2004 Olympics Thanou was given a two-year suspension fordoping.

Now the International Olympic Committee is faced with a conundrum. Does it follow precedent and give the medal to another acknowledged cheater? Does it keep moving down the results list until a clean athlete appears? (There must be someone from Timor Leste who came in 345th and didnt cheat, right?) Or does it just say that no one won the medal and leave it at that?

Im beginning to think we should start holding a separate BALCO games for all these folks. Lets round up the doping superstars, and let them test their doped up skills against each other, as they dope their way through various tests of doping acumen. Fastest injection? Best cover-up story? Most straight-faced lie to a reporter or federal agents? Quickest spike in testosterone? We could take this anywhere!

At least, in her defense, Jones had the courage to give the medals back. She was quoted in the New York Times sports section as saying with a great amount of shame…I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust…and you have the right to be angry with me… I have let my country down and I have let myself down.

Some of the other BALCO clients could learn a little something from Jones. Its a complete sham that while Jones stands in disgrace, Barry Bonds goes into the record books. They belong in the confessional together.

Also, since doping allegations began piling up against her, Jones has sunk into bankruptcy. Now, the United States Olympic Committee is reportedly going to try to recover some of the prize money shes won over the last seven years, which could mean shes out another $100,000.

Bonds, the cheater, is a multi-millionaire. Jones, the cheater, is broke and getting broker. It just isnt right.

In addition, there are some sports writers, particularly with the International Herald Tribune, Europes New York Times affiliate, who feel that Jones should serve jail time for her indiscretions. This is a case of writers taking their sports way too seriously. The International and U.S. Olympic Committees are handling this. Jones is disgraced, penniless, and has a reputation barely above that of Carrot Top and Dick Cheney. Let the woman be.

I dont feel that there is any reason to send athletes to jail for cheating. That mere notion that their careers are ruined and that theyre going to have to serve coffee or mop floors for the rest of their lives, while watching old ESPN footage and reminiscing about the good ole days, is really punishment enough. And these days, with so many cheaters, it would be a colossal waste of time to prosecute them all, because, as I said, most people just ignored this story and are weary of athletes scandals. We have, unfortunately, become numb to the transgressions of professional athletes. And I think that its going to take an awful lot to make us care again.