Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Marion Fatigue!

Marion Jones was suffering from exhaustion. Following in the footsteps of other disgraced celebrities, she may announce a trip to rehab.

In the end, is this just another situation that can be mopped up with a few tears? Just ask any celebrity or athlete who has made a “bad decision.”

Marion Jones: Liar. Cheat. Fraud. What do her actions mean to the future of our sport?

Tim Layden's recent Sport Illustrated article couldn't be more right on. Best case scenario, Marion has damaged the sport and let her down her fans.

The worst case? It's simple. Miss Jones is the worst thing to ever happen to track and field.


From the earliest moments of her career, fans had every reason to be excited about her sprint onto the scene. Unassuming, approachable, it seemed like the sport had finally found a mainstream star that would bring new fans to the stands -- and sponsors to the bank.

That hope had started to dim since the allegations of doping began as a whisper and grew to a roar.

She tried to play the victim card -- bad things just kept happening to her. Her first husband, CJ Hunter, tested positive for doping. They divorced shortly thereafter, and the whispers grew louder.

Next, her boyfriend, Tim Montgomery -- a "star" in his own right and a felon convicted on banking fraud, also tested positive. Marion denied doping even more vehemently.

Then Marion came clean -- first in a letter to family and friends, then to a judge in a court of law. No, not clean as in a clear urine test. This time Marion really came clean -- she finally admitted what everyone else had simply accepted as true already. She was guilty of doping -- and of repeatedly lying to cover her illegal acts.

But Marion, of course, couldn't be held responsible. It wasn't her fault, it was all the bad people around her. This time, it was her coach, Trevor Graham, who'd duped her into doping -- she could've sworn it was flaxseed oil.

Sure, Marion. And that's why you're crying now.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't want her to be guilty. I wanted to believe that she won those medals clean. The facts just weren't stacking up in her favor. And that's why the Marion sympathizers are dead wrong.

Because of her lying, because of her alligator tears, because it took her nearly seven years to come clean, our would-be mainstream star has burned out, taking the reputation of our sport with her.

Because of her protracted lie, she has cast a pall over every single athlete running around the track today. It will take track a decade to get over this mess.

Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards, Jeremy Wariner and Tyson Gay -- today's generation of gifted American runners -- are left running in place in the face of this long-overdue admission. Marion's legacy could've been one that took the sport to the next level for fans and people who haven't discovered its beauty. Instead, she leaves a toxic cloud.

Fans and sponsors are jaded. Achievements are underscored by the spector of scandal. Because of Marion, every athlete will be under suspicion. Thanks to Marion, our current stars may never gain the commercial success of Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson.

And ultimately that hurts us -- the fans. Jaded sponsors mean less money pumped into the sport. Less money, like it or not, means less visibility.

And the fewer opportunities that we have to see track in the mainstream, the fewer opportunities we have to share our enthusiasm with new spectators -- or with our children.

Marion's tears looked sincere for the television cameras, but will her apology make up for seven years of lies. No. They won't.

Yes, she's returned her five Olympic medals. The IAAF may ask for her prize money back. Her best performances -- some of the best in the history of the sport -- will be erased from the books. These may spell personal tragedy for Marion, but it won't make up for the damage she's done.

Mrs. Jones took more than she gave, and she left the sport on life support.

The track community is suffering from "Marion fatigue" and I pray that she makes the good decision here -- retiring in SILENCE. But if her track record is any indication, Marion Jones is incapable of making good decisions.

By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist

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