The Washington Post is reporting what many of us have suspected for several years: that Marion Jones used performance-enhancing drugs prior to winning five medals (three gold) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. And later today, in a New York courthouse, she's going to admit it. WATCH VIDEO
I titled this post "Marion's Surprising Fall" not because I'm surprised that Marion Jones used performance-enhancing drugs. I covered the Olympics for NBC for almost five years, and I, like many of my colleagues, had very strong suspicions that Marion was dirty.
What surprises me is that she's actually admitting it. I never thought I would see the day that Marion Jones would come clean, or more specifically, would be forced to come clean. According to the Post report, it's because the feds got her for committing perjury, not because of a positive drug test or a sudden emergence of conscience. And she's still using the tried and true excuse that she didn't really know what she was taking -- her coach told her it was flaxseed oil, and that was good enough for her.
You know what I think ultimately brought her down? Hubris. This is a cynical take on it, but she could have played it safe like every other athlete who has faced allegations of taking undetectable performance-enhancing drugs. She could have said, "I have never tested positive for drugs." (Well, of course -- it's hard to test positive for a substance for which there is no test.)
If I had a nickel for every cheating athlete who used the "I've never tested positive" defense, I'd have enough to fill an Olympic stadium.
But instead, Jones couldn't just disappear into post-Olympic anonymity with her Olympic medals. She had to take it a step further.
When Katie Couric asked her on TODAY in 2004, "Have you, or would you, under any circumstances, take performance-enhancing drugs?" Jones responded, "I never have. I never will. I've been blessed with an incredible amount of talent. My work ethic is second to none. And I don't feel the need to take any performance-enhancing drugs."
Lies, lies, lies.
Personally, I haven't believed a word out of her mouth for years. There was too much smoke NOT to believe that there was a fire. Relationships -- romantic, business or otherwise -- with banned Olympic shot putter C.J. Hunter (ex-husband), banned 100m ex-world record holder Tim Montgomery (ex-boyfriend and father of her child), BALCO founder Victor Conte (who claims he supplied her with drugs before the 2000 Olympics and coach Trevor Graham (the anonymous whistle-blower who touched off this ongoing doping scandal in 2003), to name a few, not to mention her otherworldly performance in Sydney.
On a certain level, I feel sorry for her. I wonder what it's been like to publicly lie for so long about something like this. And to go from being a millionaire athlete, adored by millions around the world, to an untouchable, the fallen queen of the Olympic world.
But when I have pangs of sympathy for her, I'm jolted back to reality. I remember her arrogance, her sanctimony and her utter deceit.
And so, another one bites the dust. Who will be next?