After months of water-cooler speculation, Marion Jones was sentenced yesterday to six months in prison. I am torn about whether she should serve time, and here is why.
First, for the record, Marion did wrong. She lied to federal authorities about her use of performance-enhancing drugs while under oath, and about involvement in a bank fraud case with her former boyfriend. Both of these are serious charges – but are they worth sending Marion to jail? Or is there another, more fitting, punishment to be had?
Not helping matters is that Marion Jones is not a sympathetic figure. Her “I cheated, lied and sullied the sport that made me wealthy and famous” conjures up very little sympathy.
Marion’s lawyers certainly think there is a more appropriate punishment. They recently filed court documents requesting that she not serve jail time. Instead, they offer, Marion should serve probation. But their rationale falls flat – they propose that the humiliation that she has suffered is jail enough. That, publicly shamed, probation will be punishment enough.
I am certainly not trained in
lying law, but that doesn’t seem like much of a legal strategy. It’s completely lame. Being embarrassed shouldn’t get you out of your punishment. If that was the case, almost no one would be sitting in our prisons. Plenty of those folks were probably embarrassed when they got caught, too.
Marion is certainly financially ruined by her actions and is admittedly embarrassed by getting caught. More than that, Marion should be embarrassed for her outrageous behavior and the damage she’s done to the sport. But I’m not sure that is enough to keep her butt out of jail.
So, do I think she should go to jail?
No freakin’ way.
Unless the federal government is going hound and charge Roger Clemens, Andrew Pettitte, Rick Ankiel and all the other athletes outed by the Mitchell Report, it seems tremendously unfair to send Marion to jail.
The Mitchell Report even suggests that past offenses should be water under the bridge and everyone should look to the future.
It’s not that Marion is worthy of special treatment. She should be treated like other out of control celebrities and professional athletes who get caught afoul of the law. At least she finally told the truth.
Marion should be chalked up as someone who may be good in certain parts of their lives, but made terrible, illegal mistakes. No one is served by sending this woman to jail – her crimes were essentially victimless and have proven to be, more than anything, crimes against herself. The chance of recidivism is pretty low – especially since she won’t be running competitively again in this lifetime.
Her penance should be to speak to young athletes about how doping can ruin your sport and life. Now that’s real talk.
By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist