First, I must own up to skipping two posts this week. A combination of work projects and lack of clarity about what I wanted to say were equal contributors. I even debated about posting today until I saw the news that Marion Jones is expected to plead guilty to lying to federal agents. The lie? That she never used performance-enhancing drugs.
For several years, especially after her husband and shot-putter C.J. Hunter tested positive for steroids, Jones defended her record and emphatically denied that she had ever used performance-enhancing drugs:
- Nobody has ever said anything about Marion Jones every using performance-enhancing drugs and they never will.
- I will continue to express the fact I am for a drug-free sport and always will be.
- I met Mr. Conte [BALCO's president] a number of years ago, and we had a conversation or two. Did our conversation involve talking about any performance-enhancing drugs? No. (link)
My favorite denial comes from her 2004 autobiography:
…she used an entire page to assert her innocence. In oversized, red capital letters she wrote: “I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN UNEQUIVOCAL IN MY OPINION: I AM AGAINST PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUGS. I HAVE NEVER TAKEN THEM AND I NEVER WILL TAKE THEM.” (link)
Jones is a word gambler, and probably one of the boldest I’ve seen in quite some time. Besides loudly and publicly stating her innocence, Jones continued to associate with individuals either known or later identified for their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs:
- Trevor Graham: Jones’ coach; several athletes that trained with him have been caught using banned drugs. Graham was indicted in 2006 “on charges he lied to federal agents…[he has] pleaded not guilty.”
- Tim Montgomery: Jones’ former boyfriend; he “admitted his use of banned drugs to the BALCO grand jury, pleaded guilty earlier this year in connection with a bank fraud and money-laundering case.“
- Charlie Francis: former trainer; this guy admitted to providing steroids to Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson (remember him? he tested positive at the ’88 Seoul Olympics, lost his medal, and lost his World Record).
Hmm. I’m left wondering why someone proclaiming her innocence would continue to associate with, at a minimum, questionable individuals. Maybe the adrenaline rush of telling the initial lie is too much to resist. Whatever her reasons, I’m not sure what you do to shift the thought process.
I struggle with professional sports, because in spite of USADA’s crusade against illegal drug use, I question the commitment of individual leagues to address the issue. For those who read my earlier post on whether public figures should be role models, you might wonder if I’m backsliding from my opinion (I’m not convinced they—sports figures, movie stars, etc.—owe us anything; no one is forcing us to buy tickets or support them in other ways.)
What I take issue with is how the individuals and the organizations making millions dance around the question of whether they’re “clean” (whatever that means). Fess up and move on. Don’t pay lip service to something you clearly don’t believe. For example, if baseball was serious about weeding out drug users, they’d skip over the the “three-strikes your out policy.” Instead, they’d change it to, “if you test positive, you’re done.” But that isn’t the case, so why pretend otherwise?
Honesty isn’t necessarily going to change people’s attitudes, but at least you know what you’re dealing with and can make your judgments accordingly. What people choose to support is their business, but I’m a firm believer that people should know exactly what they’re supporting.