Sunday, October 07, 2007

Marion Jones Stops Running From the Truth

Marion Jones has finally come clean, but it’s too little too late, in my opinion. After years of angry denials, Marion Jones is ready to admit she doped.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., on Friday to plead guilty to charges in connection with steroid use, a federal law enforcement source told The Associated Press.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, and would not provide specific details about the plea.
Jones also sent family and close friends a letter in which she said she used steroids before the Sydney Games, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The Post was the first to report that Jones would come clean on doping.
Jones has at long last admitted steroid use, because she knew she was caught. If the evidence wasn’t there, she would have never made the admission, I believe. Jones would still be denying, denying, and denying some more, each denial more vehement that the last one, if she wasn’t about to be nailed.
The fact that Jones confessed at this late date is weak, as far as I’m concerned. She’s not being honest because she feels guilty. She’s doing it because the truth would eventually have come out in court. Her lawyers told her that the only way to save face now is to act contrite and step up.
But, after lying for so long, it just makes her look even worse. It’s like when Pete Rose FINALLY admitted betting on baseball after years and years of swearing he didn’t. It’s pathetic and contrived – and I don’t believe the public will buy into it for a minute. Jones would have been better off if she had just stuck to her original story. Now there’s no doubt that she’s not just a liar, but a cheater as well.
"I want to apologize for all of this," the Post reported Jones saying in her letter, quoting a person who received a copy and read it to the paper. "I am sorry for disappointing you all in so many ways."
Jones said in her letter that she faced up to six months in jail and would be sentenced in three months, according to the newspaper.
The admission also could cost Jones the five medals she won in Sydney, where she was the most celebrated female athlete of the games. She didn't win the five golds she wanted, but she came away with three and two bronzes, and her bright smile and charming personality made her a star.
In December 2004, the International Olympic Committee opened an investigation into doping allegations against Jones.
"Progress to date has been slow due the difficulty of gathering findings," IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said. "The information that Marion Jones might provide later on today may prove to be key in moving this case forward."
Under statute of limitations rules, the IOC and other sports bodies can go back eight years to strip medals and nullify results. In Jones' case, that would include the 2000 Olympics, where she won gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 1,600-meter relay and bronze in the long jump and 400-meter relay.
In addition to any jail term, Jones could face a long competition ban from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The International Association of Athletics Federations said it was waiting for official notification from USADA setting out the details of Jones' reported admission.
If she admits to having been on drugs during a specific period, the IAAF could strip Jones of all her medals and results from the world championships and other events from that time. She won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 1999 and 2001 worlds.
"Our rules are clear if she confesses," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said.
No one answered the door at Jones' home in Austin, Texas, Thursday evening, and a message left by the AP for a phone number registered to her husband, Obadele Thompson, was not immediately returned.
The triple gold medalist in Sydney said she took "the clear" for two years, beginning in 1999, and that she got it from former coach Trevor Graham, who told her it was flaxseed oil, the newspaper reported.
"The clear" is a performance-enhancing drug linked to BALCO, the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional sports. Home run king Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi and Detroit Tigers outfielder Gary Sheffield all have been linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and were among more than two dozen athletes who testified before a federal grand jury in 2003.
Bonds denied ever knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs, saying he believed a clear substance and a cream, given to him by his trainer, were flaxseed oil and an arthritis balm.
Until now, Jones had denied doping, even suing BALCO founder Victor Conte in 2004 for $25 million. Conte repeatedly accused Jones of using performance-enhancing drugs and said he watched her inject herself.
"It cost me a lot of money to defend myself," Conte said Thursday. "But I told the truth then, and I'm telling it now."
In her letter, Jones said she didn't realize she'd used performance-enhancing drugs until she stopped training with Graham at the end of 2002. She said she lied when federal agents questioned her in 2003, panicking when they presented her with a sample of "the clear," which she recognized as the substance Graham had given her.
"It's funky, because you wanted to believe she was clean," said Jon Drummond, a gold medalist in the 400 relay in Sydney. "It's like that old saying, 'Cheaters never win.' So no matter how glorious or glamorous things look, you'll get caught and pay a price for it.
"It caught me by total surprise," he added. "It's a shock. I thought it was a closed case. It doesn't help track and field at all, except maybe by letting the world know, people always get to the bottom of things. We shouldn't be afraid of the truth, but it's sad it came to this."
Jones' career has been tarnished the last several years by doping allegations against her. In August 2006, a urine sample tested positive for EPO, but Jones was cleared when a backup sample tested negative.
She also was among the athletes who testified before a BALCO grand jury in 2003. Her former boyfriend, Tim Montgomery, also testified, and was given a two-year ban for doping in late 2005. Michelle Collins and Justin Gatlin, who also trained with Graham, were banned for doping violations, too.
Graham has a Nov. 26 trial date after being indicted in the BALCO case last November on three counts of lying to federal agents. Graham, who has pleaded not guilty, helped launch the government's steroid probe in 2003 when he mailed a vial of "the clear" — previously undetectable — to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
A woman who answered the phone at Graham's home in Raleigh, N.C., declined to identify herself, but said Graham was not home before refusing to answer any other questions. There was no answer at the door of Graham's north Raleigh home.
USA Track & Field was not aware of Jones' letter nor any pending legal action, CEO Craig Masback said.
"Anything that exposes the truth about drug use in sport is good for ensuring the integrity of sport," Masback said. "Any use of performance-enhancing substances is a tragedy for the athlete, their teammates, friends, family and the sport."
Darryl Seibel, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, declined comment on whether Jones would lose her medals until legal proceedings are completed.
"If these reports are true," Seibel said, "it is an admission of responsibility from an athlete who owed her sport and the Olympic movement much better."
Seibel added that "our position on doping is unequivocal. Doping is cheating, and under no circumstance will it be tolerated. If an athlete cheats, they deserve to pay the price for their action."
The Washington Post also reported that, in her letter, Jones said she lied about a $25,000 check given to her by Montgomery, who pleaded guilty in New York in April as part of a criminal scheme to cash millions of dollars worth of stolen or forged checks. He has yet to be sentenced.
Wells, Jones' longtime agent, and Olympian Steve Riddick, another of Jones' former coaches, also were convicted in the scam.
Bank records indicated Jones had received a $25,000 check from one of the alleged conspirators — Nathaniel Alexander who shared office space with Riddick and also was convicted. The check never cleared, according to records, and Jones was never charged.
"Once again, I panicked," the Post reported, quoting Jones' letter. "I did not want my name associated with this mess. I wanted to stay as far away as possible."

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