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Published: Sunday, 2/24/2008

The shame of Marion Jones

NOBODY should feel sorry that Marion Jones, the winner of three Olympic gold medals in track, is spending the next six months in jail.

She is a liar and a cheat, and admitted that to a federal judge. Some may have wished that she would have gotten off with probation. But U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas wanted to make sure that she, other athletes, and youngsters understand that no one is above the law.

After years of deceit, the former golden girl of sport finally admitted to lying to investigators about using steroids before the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and about her involvement in a check-forging scheme. She has had to return her three gold and two bronze Olympic medals. When she gets out of jail, she'll still find herself looking at two years of probation and 800 hours of community service, during which she will be required to deliver an anti-drug message to young athletes.

But Judge Karas was still not satisfied. After Jones confessed her guilt in October, the judge said he still didn't believe she had been totally forthcoming. No wonder her pleas that the judge "be as merciful as a human being can be" fell on deaf ears when it came time for sentencing.

Jones' attempt to evoke sympathy on the grounds that she has two sons, ages 4 years and 7 months, didn't work either.

Sadly, some of Jones' own relatives still didn't get it. A cousin said the judge didn't consider that "she has been shamed, that she has lost her medals, that she has been brought to financial ruin ... [and] has paid a terrible human price already."

Well, not exactly. Jones is the one who should be ashamed. She didn't win the medals fairly. She robbed some honest competitor who deserved them. Her financial problems are her own doing.

Someday, Jones will have to explain all this to her sons. When that day comes, perhaps she will have matured enough to understand how important it is for her to be honest with them about what she did, and to tell her boys that she deserved the time she had to serve, and the price she had to pay.



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