Flo Jo was dirty.
Jackie Joyner-Kersey was clean.
Ben Johnson, Tim Montgomery, Kelli White and all shot putters – dirty.
Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson – clean.
Marion Jones is clean. I think. I hope. Actually, I really do think she is. She doesn’t need to cheat. When she just missed qualifying for the US Olympic team as a high school senior, she certainly wasn’t on steroids. When she then took a few years off from track to play basketball at UNC, winning a national title along the way, she had no reason to take performance enhancing drugs. Fresh off of her hoops success, when she picked track back up and immediately became the world’s best, she still had no reason to cheat. She had never failed. She had never felt that she needed an extra edge to beat anyone. All she needed to do was get in shape and train a little and the track world was hers. Talent was her edge
Others have taken different roads. It was never proven, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that Florence Griffith-Joyner took steroids. No doubt. She was a very good runner for most of her career, but never the best. She didn’t win any golds at the World Championships or Olympics. She did win a silver in the 1984 Olympics (which the Russians boycotted) and then retired. In 1987 she burst back onto the scene a different woman. She looked different, covered in muscles, and she certainly ran different. Flo Jo immediately began smashing records, including taking an unthinkable three-tenths of a second off of the 100m world record. Her time of 10.49 hasn’t been even remotely approached since she abruptly retired not long after the 1988 Olympics (and just before the start of mandatory random drug testing of all Olympic athletes).
With Marion, there is no reason on the track to suspect that she cheats. She has dominated the sport as few others have, but she never had any meteoric rise from mediocrity. She never suddenly lowered her times – she was always good.
No, Marion’s problems have been her stunningly dumb off-track associations. I understand that you can’t choose who you fall in love with, but for an athlete of her magnitude, she certainly could have been more careful. First, she fell in love with and married her former college coach CJ Hunter. Hunter was a world-class shot putter who famously failed a series of drug tests just before the 2000 Olympics. He was kicked off the team and Jones separated from him and eventually divorced him a short time later.
Unfortunately, Marion then eventually hooked up with Tim Montgomery. Montgomery was a bit like Flo Jo – world class, but never the best. He routinely finished behind stars like Maurice Greene. Then, in 2002, he suddenly began winning top-flight meets. That fall, he had the race of his life, beating Greene’s world record in a time of 9.78 (a half of a tenth faster than Ben Johnson’s brief world record from 1988).
Montgomery and Jones first raised eyebrows in early 2003 when they hired Charlie Francis as their new coach. Francis is infamous in the track and field community for being the coach of Ben Johnson. Francis was banned from the Canadian national team after he admitted giving Johnson steroids. Francis seems to have no problems giving his athletes steroids, saying “If anyone is clean, it’s going to be the losers.” (Click here for an incredible interview with this scumbag.)
Montgomery and Jones soon fired Francis after tons of pressure from the media and track federations. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that long before the BALCO case came to light. Both Montgomery and Marion were called to testify before a grand jury in the federal case against BALCO and Victor Comte for illegally creating and distributing steroids. That investigation turned up evidence that Montgomery was on a BALCO-administered steroid schedule at the time he broke the world record (this is a great article on Montgomery’s troubles). No public information has come out linking Marion directly to BALCO (although you will frequently read articles that talk about the check written to Comte from “her bank account.” That check was signed by CJ Hunter, her husband at the time. Since spouses commonly share bank accounts and since Hunter tested positive for steroids, I hardly see how this “evidence” says anything about Marion.), but that hasn’t stopped the suspicion.
This suspicion came to a head in recent meeting between Marion, her lawyer and the head of U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Marion and her lawyer called the meeting to try to find out why she was being investigated. After the meeting, her lawyer said that they offered to let the USADA test any old samples of her urine that they had, but found that the USADA had kept none. According to her lawyer, Joseph Burton, the USADA presented no hard evidence of any sort. The USADA says that they could potentially suspend Jones even without any failed tests, that their anecdotal evidence could be enough. What evidence they have is not clear.
What is clear is that Marion Jones has no one to blame but herself. I think she’s clean; she’s never failed a test and she says she’s willing to take a test at any time. Her problem is that she’s surrounded herself with cheaters. Usually, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I hope in this case it is just second-hand smoke.
I think that Marion Jones is clean. I think.
Another Sprinter Nailed
Montgomery In Crosshairs
The USADA Details Evidence On Montgomery’s Doping
Kornheiser: Is Marion A Duck?
More Red Flags
Flo Jo was dirty.