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.


ellen said...

Well said Mary, and thank you for opening the dialog on the Marion Jones issue. Crimializing Marion Jones with the maximum sentence for lying about steroid use will not deter the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs at the professional athlete level, nor will it discourage young athletes from getting involved in with steroids as teenagers. Her crime is real, but her sentencing is a travesty and a missed opportunity. Better to take her forthright apology and make her a positive example to young people by sentencing her to community service in working with young athletes to help them see the long-term repercussions of using drugs to enhance performance. That would have a much better impact on the overall effort to stop the use of steroids. Judge Karas tries to "scare straight" the rest of the sports world, but to do so by incarcerating a female athlete of color with two young children at home reveals that hypocrisy and discrimination are alive and well in the steroid scandal.

Mary Mazzio said...

Excellent comment, Ellen. Thanks for your thoughtful contribution!

Rick said...

It does not matter if it is a woman or a woman of color or a white guy or a black guy or a person of any color.

The sentence was wrong for any person in this particular situation.

Well intentioned individuals skew and cloud the immediate issue being discussed by introducing sex, race discrimination and any number of other issues to help justify an outcome that they don't agree with.

Until we stop see color and begin looking at the deeds that people do, be them good or bad, we will never move forward.

Many of our professional athletes are nothing but thugs. Many are people that should be looked up to for their accomplishments and make good role models. You choose who you want to put on the pedestal. But if your choice proves to a bad one don't blame anybody or anything else for your disappointment with the outcome.

I would never propose that discrimination does not exist or attempt minimize the impact that it has on our society. But this case is the perfect example of just a flat out bad sentence that will not accomplish what the judge is attempting to do. Period. Race has nothing to do with it.

Ellen's suggestion of the apology and community service probably would have been more appropriate.

Start putting the doctors, drug manufacturers, trainers and parents that look the other way in jail and you may start to see things change.

Mary Mazzio said...


Such an articulate opinion - and I completely agree with your last statement that if trainers and people who look the other way are put in jail, things may start to change.

This should also go for coaches, team owners, managers, as well.

Dawn Richardson said...

Hey Mary-thanks for addressing this issue. My sport, cyling, has taken a huge hit because of doping. Sponsors can't leave the sport fast enough. I'm hopeful that WADA (World Antidoping Agency) is making progress. We have a big men's pro race in a couple weeks in California, and the promoters are spending $100,000on drug testing. I've been interviewing athletes who doped for about 5 years, and this is what I'm finding:


I'm hoping that if the athletes knew up front that they were truly making a deal with the devil it might be an additional deterrant.

Take care and thanks for the dialogue on doping in sport,

Dawn Richardson

Mary Mazzio said...


Excellent opinion. More on this in the next posting!

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