Sunday, October 14, 2007

Marion Jones Returns Her Ill Gotten Gains

Marion Jones has returned all five Olympic medals that she won by cheating and has accepted a two-year ban from competition. All of her results since September 1, 2000 have been forfeited. It is not yet certain what will happen to the prize money and bonuses that she received since that time. Jones' cheating tarnished not only her legacy but also that of her teammates on Olympic relay teams, who are being asked to return their medals also. U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Jim Scherr said, "We of course do not think the relay medals were won fairly. We would impress upon those athletes to return their medals to the IOC if that is within their conscience to do." In a previous cheating instance, also involving the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the USOC urged that only sprinter Jerome Young be stripped of his medal because he only competed in the prelims. Jones ran in the Olympic finals, so therefore the medal round results are tainted.

In a sad commentary about just how rife with cheating Olympic sports are, Katerini Thanou, the Greek sprinter who won the silver medal in the 100 meters in the 2000 Olympics and would presumably be awarded Jones' gold medal, must first resolve a doping case of her own that dates back to 2004. Also, two of Jones' teammates on the bronze medal winning 4x100 team in Sydney--Torri Edwards and Chryste Gaines--have served doping bans since the 2000 Olympics; obviously, those two are the last people who should complain about giving up medals.

After pleading guilty to two counts of lying to federal investigators, Jones tried to curry favor in the court of public opinion, tearfully saying, "Making these false statements to federal agents was an incredibly stupid thing for me to do, and I am responsible fully for my actions. I have no one to blame but myself for what I have done. It is with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust. I have been dishonest, and you have the right to be angry with me. I have let [my family] down. I have let my country down, and I have let myself down. I recognize that by saying I'm deeply sorry, it might not be enough and sufficient to address the pain and hurt that I've caused you. Therefore, I want to ask for your forgiveness for my actions, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me."

She deserves credit for admitting without qualification to being "stupid" and "dishonest," which is much better than the typical public apology to "anyone who I may have offended." Yet, though her tears may distract some people, if you listen closely her words still don't ring true. In her court testimony she maintains that when was taking steroids she thought that she was taking flaxseed oil--yet she admits that after she stopped taking the substance she realized that it had enhanced her body and improved her performance. Are we really supposed to believe that she did not notice these changes until after she stopped taking the substances? It makes no sense for Jones to say that she took steroids for years but only realized what they actually were after she stopped taking them. She competed in a sport in which tenths of a second are huge and the smallest edge can mean the difference between winning a gold medal and finishing fourth, yet she had no idea that her performances were being artificially enhanced? Jones has already proven that she has no compunction about brazenly lying, so there is no reason to believe those portions of her apology that ring hollow; in other words, there is no reason to believe that she feels remorse for anything other than the fact that she got caught.