Surrender The Medals


When Marion Jones took the Sydney Summer Olympics by storm in 2000, I was only 11 years old. During that time, I only liked watching gymnastics and figure skating, so I don’t remember much about her time on the track. I do remember her having to surrender her Olympic medals and testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. I remember the time Marion Jones’ legacy came crashing down around her.  

Marion Jones was born on October 12, 1975 in Los Angeles, California to George and Marion Jones (the Mom was Marion and the daughter was Marion, weird flex but okay). Her parents divorced when Jones was still very young. Her Mom remarried a man named Ira Toler. Toler became a stay-at-home-Dad and spent a lot of time with Marion and her half-brother, Albert, until his sudden death in 1987. Marion turned to sports to help deal with grief of losing her step-father. She took up running, basketball, and any other sport Albert was involved in. By the age of 15 Marion Jones was consistently domination California high sports both on and off the track.  

Jones excelled at her first major international competition, the 1997 World Championships in Athens, Greece. She won the 100-meter sprint and finished tenth in the long jump. This same year she would be a senior at the University of North Carolina. While attending the UNC she began dating one of the track and field coaches, C.J Hunter. Hunter resigned from his position so he didn’t violate the schools code of conduct that was against coaches and student athletes dating. Marion Jones graduated in 1997, on October 3, 1998 her and Hunter married. The newlyweds quickly began training for the upcoming 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. At the 1999 World Championships, Marion Jones attempted to win four titles, but injured herself in the 200 meter sprint after talking  gold in the 100 meter and a long jump bronze. 

Jones would end up achieving her goal and qualified to compete in the 2000 summer Olympics. She would end up winning three gold medals; in the 100- and 200-meter sprint, and 4×400 meter relay. Jones would also capture bronze in the long jump and 4×100 meter relay. So, she walked away with a total of five medals, that would get to keep…. for now. Jones experienced her first loss at the 100-meter sprint in six year at the 2001 World Championships, getting taken out by Ukrainian Zhanna Pintusevich-Block. Marion Jones, however, did capture the gold in both the 200-meter sprint and the 4×100 meter relay. At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece things weren’t looking much better for Jones. She came fifth in the long jump and did not medal in the women’s 4×100 meter relay. When Jones talks about her time at the 2004 Olympics she simply states; “It’s extremely disappointing, words can’t put it into perspective.” Marion stated this would not be her last stint in the Olympics and that her ultimate goal was to compete in 2008. That goal would never be achieved. 

Throughout her career it was heavily speculated that Jones used performance enhancing drugs. The accusations stared in the 90’s while Jones was still in high school when she missed a random drug test and was banned for four years from track & field competitions. Her attorney Johnnie Cochran was able to have her ban overturned, honestly is anyone surprised by that. Until 2007 Marion Jones denied ever having taken performance enhancing drugs and who can blame her, she had never tested positive on any of the multiple drug tests she had been subject to. Going to back track to December 2004 when BALCO founder Victor Conte did an interview for 20/20 where he admitted to personally giving Marion Jones four different performance enhancing drugs before, during, and after the 2000 Olympic games.  

Jones’s now ex-husband C.J Hunter would also come forward in 2004 and claim he had seen Jones inject herself in the stomach with steroids multiple times. Ok, that sounds very painful, can you just inject it into your butt cheek or something. Hunter went in front of a federal grand jury and testified that Marion Jones use of banned substances started well before her run (no pun intended) 2000 Olympics.  

In 2006 ‘The Washington Post’ cited that unidentified sources had given them information about Marion Jones drug test results from USA Track & Field Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana. On June 23, 2006 ‘The Washington Post’ released an article stating that the “A sample” of Jones urine test was positive for Erythropoietin a banned performance enhancer. After this leaked Marion pulled out of Weltklasse Golden League meet in Switzerland, citing “personal reasons”, and again denied ever using performance enhancing drugs. She hired lawyer Howard Jacobs, who had represented many athletes in doping cases, including Tim Montgomery and cyclist Floyd Landis. On September 6, 2006, Jones’s lawyers announced that her “B” sample of urine had tested negative, which cleared her from the doping allegations. 

Jones During Her Stint In The WNBA

Jones at the 2000 Olympics medal ceremony


Well, that is the end of that, right?…… WRONG! In July 2006 Jones was linked to a check counterfeiting scheme that led to criminal charges. Documents showed that a $25,000 check made out to Jones was deposited in her bank account as part of the alleged multimillion-dollar scheme. Prosecutors alleged that funds were sent to Jones’ track coach, 1976 Olympic gold medalist Steve Riddick,  who was living in Virginia, then funneled back to New York through a network of “friends, relatives and associates.” Riddick was arrested in February on money-laundering charges. On October 5, 2007 Marion Jones admitted to federal agents that she lied while under oath about her steroid use prior to the 2000 Summer Olympics. She also said she made false statement about BALCO and her check-fraud case. 

Well, that is the end of that, right?…… WRONG! In July 2006 Jones was linked to a check counterfeiting scheme that led to criminal charges. Documents showed that a $25,000 check made out to Jones was deposited in her bank account as part of the alleged multimillion-dollar scheme. Prosecutors alleged that funds were sent to Jones’ track coach, 1976 Olympic gold medalist Steve Riddick, who was living in Virginia, then funneled back to New York through a network of “friends, relatives and associates.” Riddick was arrested in February on money-laundering charges. On October 5, 2007 Marion Jones admitted to federal agents that she lied while under oath about her steroid use prior to the 2000 Summer Olympics. She also said she made false statement about BALCO and her check-fraud case. 

After her admission Jones held a press conference for the public where she admitted to taking steroids before the 2000 summer Olympics, and that she had in fact lied in previous statements to the press, sports agencies, and grand juries about her use of banned drugs. As a result of these new admissions, Jones accepted a two-year suspension from track and field competition issued by USADA, and announced her retirement from track and field on October 5, 2007. USADA stated that their sanction “also requires disqualification of all her competitive results obtained after September 1, 2000, and forfeiture of all medals, results, points and prizes”. On October 8, 2007, a source confirmed that Marion Jones surrendered her five medals from the 2000 Summer Olympics. On January 11, 2008, Jones was sentenced to 6 months in jail. She began her sentence on March 7, 2008, on April 10, 2008 the IOC voted to strip Jones relay teammates of all of their medals as well. This decision would end up being successfully appealed and in 2010 her teammates were reissued their medals. In my opinion they shouldn’t have lost their medals in the first place, unless they knew about Jones steroid use. Marion Jones was released from jail on September 5, 2008. 

On October 28, 2008, Jones was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and stated that she would have won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics without the drugs that led to her downfall Then why did you do them in the first place, MARION!? You know Oprah probably asked her that, Oprah likes those hard-hitting questions. In November 2009, Jones worked out with the San Antonio Silver Stars of the WNBA. “Silver Stars”. Well isn’t that name just adorable. She had played basketball while in college at the University of North Carolina, where her team won the national championship in 1994. She only stopped playing to put more focus on her track and field career. She had been selected in the 3rd round of the 2003 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury, I guess the Silver Stars didn’t want to be tarnished by Jones name…did you guys get that!? You better be laughing. Well the Mercury ended up not wanting any of that mess either because on March 10, 2010, the Tulsa Shock announced that Jones had signed to play with the team, making the professional minimum (about $35,000) in her first season. Jones made her debut on May 15, in the Shock’s inaugural game at the BOK Center against the Minnesota Lynx. In 47 WNBA games, Jones averaged 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. I’m not going to lie all these team names are foreign to me, I don’t follow the WNBA or any women’s sports for that matter. No hate, just not my thing. YOU DO YOU ALL YOU LADY ATHLETES OUT THERE, I’M PROUD OF YOU, YOU DO THE DAMN THING! 

I personally believe the most tragic thing of all is that Marion Jones was a person young girl looked up to. She was a role model to so many. Not me because like I said I was into gymnastics and figure skating. I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast but I did gymnastics when I was three and yeah…too much work…. I maybe last three weeks, so the whole practice thing wasn’t for me. So many young girls put her on a pedestal and wanted to be like her, they watched thinking “wow that could be me one day”. When all was said and done, nobody wanted to be like Marion Jones. Her name is now barely a blip on a radar and all but erased from the history of the Olympics. She just sort of……sprinted off into the darkness, you better be laughing, again. 

Sources:

Marion Jones – Britannica

Marion Jones: Press Pause – ESPN

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