The tragedy of Miss Jones


Here’s an interesting article from Rohit Brijnath of sportstar:

Athletes, across the world, don’t always hang ontotrophies. Some donate their dust-draped trophies to schools to be usedat junior meets. Some junk medals in anger, sometimes in disinterest.Some sell cups because the trophy is unimportant, they own the memoryof their great moment, and it is all that matters.

If John McEnroe hadn’t called to say are you crazy, Bjorn Borg mighthave allowed some overweight accountant to own his Wimbledon trophies.Borg swears that money problems were not the reason behind his urge tosell, but numerous athletes dispose of medals because of financialdistress. In an earlier generation, an Indian Asian Games goldmedallist was told by a jeweller his medals were worthless, making himfeel the same. But in an eBay generation, apparently nothing isworthless.

So perhaps, one of these months, on the Internet, a few medals will beput up for sale. Olympic gold, the seller might state. Belonging to acontroversial, fast, female athlete. Fast is good, but it’s the“controversial” which is what might send the bidders into a frenzy.Everyone loves celebrities and notoriety; it is the fix of thisgeneration.

Hopefully Marion Jones never has to pawn her gold medals to pay thebills. Nevertheless, last fortnight another reminder arrived that herlife, so far, remains more tragedy than triumph. Reports stated thatshe, who beamed out of magazine covers and billboards, and signedmillion-dollar deals, is broke, down to her last few thousand dollars.

In a way it is unsurprising, just another chapter in the sorry saga ofMiss Jones. For the fallen, the void seems bottomless. Yet it is hardto be completely certain of the “broke” news simply because it is hardto be sure of anything about Jones.

Is she fool or cheat, her talent innate or injected? With thisspeediest of runners, the truth has been hard to catch and pin down.

It might be said that Jones has disappointed us, as runner andperson. The grinning, graceful champion of Sydney almost seems like afictional character of our youth. Nothing substantial has been won inthe past five years except more allegations, and this is unfortunate,too, for allegations do not wash off.

We should have got over Jones by now, for she is history, and this“broke” business should have been just a small undistinguished brief inthe corner of the sports pages. If she was a sweating, hairy, maleshot-putter under suspicion called Yuri that would have been the case.

But we keep writing about her, keep reviewing her life, because shewas so tall, so fast, so natural, so beautiful it seemed impossible shecould be a failure, and then abruptly she was, an inspirational taleabruptly turned into a cautionary one. People, charmed by her, wantedher to succeed and then felt let down. Her ability to win gold, hearts,endorsements and then lose it all was staggering. Certainly it grabbedour attention.

Still, we pause while passing judgement about Jones. In conversationson her often sympathy invades, for two reasons primarily: first, thefall of a human being is rarely worthy of glee; second, she neverfailed a drug test and this leaves a trace element of doubt in ourminds.

Last year was the only time that Jones ever tested positive, forEPO, but no sanctions were required for her back-up sample testednegative. Yet despite constantly protesting that she has never usedperformance enhancing drugs, Jones has never been in the clear totally,damned as she has been by circumstantial evidence.

Victor Conte, the controversial founder of BALCO, reportedly accusedher of taking illegal drugs; so did her first husband, C. J. Hunter,who himself tested positive for steroids. For a while Jones worked withCharlie Francis, who was linked to Ben Johnson. Another former coachwas Trevor Graham, who, perhaps in a coincidence, tutored numerousathletes who tested positive during their careers. She had a child withTim Montgomery, who, while not testing positive for drugs, was bannedfor doping based on evidence gathered in the BALCO scandal. As fast asJones was, she has not been able to flee the resulting insinuations. Ifthere is one truth we can see, it is that Jones is guilty of poorchoices, of aligning herself with people who did no good to herreputation. She became a tainted star, and tainted stars are bad forbusiness. Sponsors and track meet promoters tiptoe away.

At the same time, legal costs have reportedly mounted as she attemptsto clear her name. If you cannot run and earn, it is hard to pay thebills.

Jones is in an awkward position. She is free to run, yet she runswithout freedom, carrying the weight of a planet’s scrutiny. In a wayit is tragic, for by running fast she may feel she can redeem herself,yet by running fast she will only bring further questions.

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Mike Young

Mike Young

Founder of ELITETRACK at Athletic Lab
Mike has a BS in Exercise Physiology from Ohio University, an MSS in Coaching Science from Ohio University & a PhD in Biomechanics from LSU. Additionally, he has been recognized as a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a Level 3 coach by USA Track & Field, a Level 2 coach by USA Weightlifting.
Mike Young


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