Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Marion Jones Sentenced

Track star Marion Jones was recently sentenced to serve 6 months in jail for lying to federal investigators about using banned substances and for 2 months for lying about the involvement of her coach, Steve Riddick, and former training partner and father of her eldest son, Tim Montgomery, also a world class Olympic sprinter, in a multi-million dollar check scheme.

There was never any question that Marion Jones took performance enhancements, particularly as she trained under coach Trevor Graham - who has had many an athlete test positive for banned substances. Marion is one of many world class athletes who regularly take banned substances. What people often forget is this: it is only banned if you go over certain limits as an athlete. If you follow the money, you'll find enhancement. You rarely find athletes taking banned substances in low money sports (rowing as a perfect example - all guts, no glory, no press, and certainly no endorsements or money).

The severity of the sentence, according to US District Court Judge, Kenneth Karas, was in part to make an example of Jones. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Karas stated that a prison sentence might make others ''think twice before lying. It might make them realize that no one is above the obligation to tell the truth.'

Making Marion Jones an example, while the many baseball players who testified under oath in front of Congress (and then were subsequently found to have taken steroids or other banned substances) - is not only extreme, but unfair.

Marion Jones has become a national disgrace, sentence enough for her actions. Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, and the many NFL and MLB players who have taken banned substances are not behind bars - - and to make Marion Jones the sacrificial lamb sends a message that if you are a woman and an athlete, especially one of color, all bets are off.

As for the check fraud scheme - that, frankly, is a more serious offense. And to receive 2 months for that involvement means that she did not participate but knew it was happening. Clearly, Jones has some serious character issues that she will need to deal with going forward, but putting her, a mother with two young sons, behind bars for lying about steroid use, makes no sense.

It should be the trainers and team owners who know about steroid and enhancements who ought to be made examples of.

Put a major league manager behind bars - now that would be real deterrence.