Marion Jones has fallen from grace. I’m sure we’ve all read the reports about how, after years of being one of the most vocal athletes to defend herself against the armada of allegations assailing her, this record holder and Olympic medalist confirmed everyone’s worst suspicions. Marion Jones cheated. She was doped up. She not only admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs, but of knowing that she was taking such drugs even while she continued to compete, while she knowingly beat multiple drug tests, and while she knowingly denied every suspicion. Sadly, such stories have become familiar this year, which has had many terrible sports stories. She’s just another athlete who did something they shouldn’t have done, denied and lied, and then apologized in disgrace.
I really liked Marion Jones. Witty, easy to listen to, confident, and, of course, an amazing athlete who seemed to find exuberance in every powerful lunge toward the finish line. And I admit to feeling disappointment and anger over her cheating. I’m not willing yet to give in to cynics who can only say, “I told you so.” I still want to believe in athletes and the amazing things they can do. But I also can see the traces of writing on the wall. This cascade of athlete betrayals is making it increasingly difficult to maintain optimism. Nevertheless, there is a spark of difference in Marion Jones’s cheating story that has rekindled some of my belief in athletics and those who compete.