Marion Jones Stuns Track Coaches, Athletes PDF Print E-mail
By Kai Beasley - Black College Wire   
TSU Athletics
Chandra Cheeseborough

Marion Jones, the American track star who won an astounding five medals at the 2000 Olympics in Sidney, Australia, was added to the growing list of Olympic athletes who have admitted using performance enhancing drugs. For many black collegians who compete in track and field, the news was stunning.

"I was shocked and amazed!" said Pamela Page, a 1984 U.S. Olympian who now enters her tenth season as head track and field coach at Clark Atlanta University. "For the most part, I always thought she was pretty much natural. Coming out of high school, if you make an Olympic team, you got talent."

On October 5, Marion Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements to federal agents during the 2003 investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, also known as BALCO. The company had been accused of providing performance enhancing drugs to athletes in various professional sports.

Jones, 31, said that she had taken steroids between 1998 and 2001, a period that included the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where she won five medals (three gold and two bronze). She went on to say that her coach, Trevor Graham, initially gave her THG, otherwise known as "the clear", under the pretense that it was flax seed oil, a natural substance taken by many athletes as a nutritional supplement. She later realized that it was a performance enhancing drug.

The track star has returned the medals she won in Sidney to the United States Olympic Committee. The USOC will return the medals to the International Olympic Committee. While it's not clear what will happen, the IOC has the power to decide if Jones' relay teammates will have to return their medals as well. Jones' admission left many wondering how deeply the sport will be affected.

"When I look at it, I think it sets back track and field because sponsors pull out. It makes it hard to bring on major sponsors," said track legend Chandra Cheeseborough, a three-time United States Olympian and medalist, who now serves as head coach of Tennessee State University women's track and field team. "It makes them feel like what's the use of sponsoring someone who is going to get caught up in the controversy."

Although steroid use has been widely reported in baseball and football, their use in other sports has only recently come to light. But Cheeseborough says steroids in track and field have been around longer than some might think.

"I think that steroids are huge in track, and I think that it's a time where they're trying to clean up the sport," she said, "It's sad thinking that other people work hard without the use of steroids but there are a few people that get the advantage using performance enhancing drugs."

In a media address outside of a U.S. Federal courthouse in White Plains, N.Y. Jones announced her immediate retirement from the sport, and apologized to friends, family, and her fans.

Department of Defense
Marion Jones in 2004

"I am responsible fully for my actions," said the former track star. "I have no one to blame but myself for what I've done. To you my fans including my young supporters, I want you to know that I have been dishonest, you have the right to be angry with me, I have let them down, I have let my country down and I have let myself down."

For some, the issue of who is to blame is not so clear-cut.

"There comes a point when Marion knew," Page said. "At some point she had to say 'I know what I'm doing,' and at that point it falls on her. But I think it should go across the board. There's a point that I think it's the coach, it's the doctor, it's everyone who knew and everyone who was profiting from the success."

Still others believe that full responsibility should fall on the athletes, regardless of the pressures that come with success.

"You choose your own actions," said Sarah Lee, a West Virginia State University freshman who competes in the long jump and sprinting events for WVSU's track team. "Of course people are pushing you and wanting you to be better, but it was her decision to do it. It was her option."

Pamela Page believes Jones' downfall explains a lot. "Now you can see things with all these positive tests coming out, but when you look at some of the women now you think, wow, I was never cut like that. I worked out hard, and I never looked like that."

Marc J Harrison, head women's track coach at the University of the District of Columbia has a similar view. "A lot of my young ladies were disappointed because Marion Jones was their idol, but I wouldn't say it's discouraging them in any way. They are strong black women and they'll bounce back. I don't think it s discouraging."

For WVSU's Sarah Lee, Marion Jones is just an example of what not to do. "I think it's going to make people a little more cautious," Lee said. "I think it becomes a question with people now. They'll take the initiative and get more testing. Now I know that even if someone was to bring it up to me, I would never use steroids because if someone like Marion Jones got caught, who knows what could happen?"

Kai Beasley is a recent graduate of Emory University and a regular contributor to Black College Wire. To comment, please e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Posted Oct. 15, 2007

Posted Oct. 15, 2007
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