Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Story Of Marion Jones: Buh-Bye!

What the hell is happening in sports today? Where is the moral and ethical character that coaches like UCLA's John Wooden taught to his athletes? As a society, we make heroes of athletes. We admire their extraordinary physical abilities and discipline, and we have a hard time realizing that they can be as weak morally as the rest of us - maybe even weaker, given the raft of temptations they must face. But then we get Michael Vick. Barry Bonds. And now Marion Jones. Marion Jones betrayed us. The Olympic sprinter, after years of denials, last week admitted to using steroids. And we feel cheated.

Poor Marion, we thought. She was surrounded by so many selfish, egotistical men, determined to cheat their way through a noble sport and drag her down with them. Now Jones has been exposed as a lying cheat herself. She now admits to using steroids before the Sydney Games in 2000, and she faces jail time for her crime and cover-up. Jones saw her fortunes dry up as the truth closed in. She once commanded $75,000 to $100,000 a performance after winning three gold medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Her fees dropped to $5,000 to $10,000, and she wasn't even invited to recent track and field events.

Jones let down amateur and pro female athletes who worked to earn regard without performance-enhancing drugs. Girls who turned to her for a strong, healthy female body image feel duped. Track and field fans feel cheated. Jones gave back the five medals she won at the Sydney Olympics on Monday - three gold medals and two bronzes were turned over to U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials at her attorneys' office in Austin, Texas. The International Olympic Committee has to re-award the medals in those races. Jones is out. Everybody else has to move up.

This, in a weird way, relates to what happened to Senator Larry Craig. Only two people in the world know what happened in the Minneapolis men's restroom, Craig and the cop who arrested him. Craig will always be under a cloud. Now what drives both Ms. Jones and the senator is selfishness. Jones wanted fame and money, Craig wants to keep his power. Even though other people around them are getting hurt, they would not do the right thing. Every human being does bad things...including me. But there comes a time to own up and right the wrongs. But Americans aren't taught that any more in school. And the media glorifies greed. As Michael Douglas said in the movie "Wall Street": greed is good. The stories of Marion and Larry prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.

We grown-ups like to think we don't need heroes, but we do. Most of us love to look up to somebody. Unfortunately, many times when we fall in love with an athlete, we end up heartbroken and disillusioned. I think seeing Jones for what she really is — a liar and a cheater. Now she is living, breathing proof that women have learned to cheat just like men.

Thus the point of this story. Moral character and ethics is doing the right thing even when it costs more than you want to pay. Hopefully, this will send a clear message to all people, not just athletes, that cheating doesn’t pay. Doubt that!