Can we ever forgive Marion Jones?

mocha moments

[This article was written 16 October 2007]

And will we ever forget what she did? If you are an avid sports fan then this revelation may have affected you more than most. If you are like me –  on the sideline, “depending on the hype surrounding an event” kind of sports aficionado then you will understand that I took the news in stride, wondering what was the catalyst motivating Marion’s choices to use steroids to enhance her performance? Had she lost total faith in her most magnificent body feeling that she needed something extra? Or was it that time was against her and although she knew that she could eventually “do it” on her own she needed to “do it now” and hence the drugs? Then a headline in the Express [Thursday October 11th edition] caught my eye: “Ferguson: Jail Jones!”

Here was Debbie Ferguson, a Bahamian Olympic gold medalist, without remorse, suggesting that Jones should be jailed for having cheated other athletes. Not necessarily out of the money, although that’s important, but out of a moment: to hear your national anthem and to feel proud that your hard work and your hard work alone – won you a top position. Here was Ferguson, let down because Jones was someone she admired! “I cannot feel any remorse for Marion Jones – she needs to go to jail.”

Why did Marion confess though? Did it become too much for her to bear? The lying and denying, the covering up, – the having to remember “what to say” in a particular sequence – did this weaken her to honesty? Interestingly, seven years after winning a women’s record, five Olympic track and field medals and snagging multimillion-dollar endorsement deals, Marion Jones is broke. Wrapped up in defending herself against numerous law suits and fighting off court judgments (against the very thing she eventually confessed to) – her bank balance is said to be around $2,000.00! In her prime, Jones was one of track’s first female millionaires, typically earning between $70,000 and $80,000 a race, plus at least another $1 million from race bonuses and endorsement deals.

Remember Ben Johnson? Well he said he wasn’t surprised by her confession in fact he’s waiting for more athletes to admit they took banned drugs. Which reminds me of the glass house throwing stones story…Is it that in today’s world performance enhancing drugs is becoming the norm? Is there too much pressure being placed on athletes to be faster than ever before? Is the money so intoxicating that it is seen as absolutely worth the risk to jeopardize not only self but family members and on a much larger scale – country/nation?

It’s so easy to point fingers at Marion. It’s such a relief to see someone else taking licks as we ourselves hide all those dark secrets in our private and professional lives hoping that we’ll never be found out. How many times have we sabotaged a subordinates performance just because our “blood didn’t take them?” How often have we chosen people more for companionship and comfort versus performance? How easy is it sometimes to betray a friend’s confidence in lieu of one’s own personal gain? How satisfying is it to belittle someone just because “you can”. But you see you never have to publicly admit to any of these things.

Understand though that it is very easy to get into repeated behavior especially if the first couple of times your action goes unnoticed. Jones said “I felt different, trained more intensely, and experienced faster recovery and better times.” In other words she got addicted. And isn’t addiction sweet? To be seen as the top dog – to be seen as the one in charge – in power. To be untouchable almost like a modern day “hero” – admired by co-workers and family members. To always be lucky and get whatever you want – not that there is anything wrong with any of this except – what price are you paying to get it?

Are your thoughts fixed on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable excellent and worthy of praise? President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge summed it up best. He called Marion Jones’ guilty plea a “good thing” for international sports because it shows drug cheats eventually get caught. You are accountable always to yourself – practice living in a way that you don’t have to look over your shoulder, or ever wonder about “getting caught”.

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