Wednesday, November 17, 2010

She Cheated

 Everything in italics is taken verbatim from Marion Jones's interview on The Daily Show

Even if no one will say it aloud, Marion Jones cheated.  

I go into this post needing to make my position clear.  There is no doubt in anyone's mind, least of all hers, that she took performance enhancing drugs. She plead guilty to lying to Congress about using them and spent 6 months in prison.  

It was awful.  


John Stewart interviewed her on The Daily Show this week and every single thing I've ever thought about her was there, in full view, begging me once again to feel those feelings.  So, here I am, back with another hero with feet of clay.

And that's the saddest part, because her feet were really the wings of Hermes.  She flew over the ground, her feet barely touching the earth before springing forward with grace and elegance and speed.  Oh, yes, she was fast.  And she told John Stewart that she had always had this gift, this talent so I could imagine her as a little bitty girl out-running the boys in the neighborhood and giggling all the way.  Watching her run always made me smile.  I liked to think that she was a sunny as she seemed to be in interviews; it seemed only fair that she enjoy her life as much as I enjoyed watching her live it.

And then there were allegations and the denials and the hearings and lies and mendacity and prison and, ultimately, fighting with her cellmate and landing in solitary confinement for 45 plus days.  She is now playing in the WNBA and is an advocate for penal reform.  She's still smiling and beautiful and delightful to watch, but listening to her has given me cause for pause.

On the Right Track: From Olympic Downfall to Finding Forgiveness and the Strength to Overcome and SucceedInitially, I was just laughing at the longest sub-title I'd ever seen (naturally, like almost all Stewart's guests, she is on a book tour) -- On the Right Track: From Olympic Downfall to Finding Forgiveness and the Strength to Overcome and Succeed 

I guess she ran out of things to do, after finding forgiveness and overcoming and succeeding.  Of course, I thought she had succeeded in the Olympics but that turns out not to be true.  Or is it a fact that is based on a deception and so is it not really a fact at all?  Or was it a fact and did the returning of her medals make it no longer a fact?  I'm getting a little confused myself here, but I think you get the point.  

I really wanted to like her, and I did right after the interview.  She is gorgeous and well-spoken and seemed to be saying all the right things with just enough humor to take the edge off the awfulness.  Relaxing into the role of interviewee, she began a comment on how she ended up fighting with her cellmate like this:  "Well, y'know ...... no, obviously you don't know so I'll tell you, in prison ......"  The laughter was rueful but not lugubrious; the woman's lived through some hard times and she knows it.  There's no doubt about that, either.

What bothers me is that she never said "I cheated.  It was wrong."  Instead, she was given performance enhancing drugs.  Don't elite athletes monitor every single solitary thing that passes their outer surfaces - skin, mouth, etc etc etc?  Apparently, a thing you have to understand about elite athletes is that they have an inner circle of people who they trust and, I guess, it was one of these members of her inner circle who gave her the PED's.  

Now, you may think this is a semantic argument but she never stated that she took the drugs.  She said that she was given the drugs.  Poor, trusting soul.  The ones closest to her were mean and awful and cheaters and she was totally unaware of what she was putting into her body.  She didn't ask questions.  Was she just a foolish and trusting soul or was she complicit and really didn't want to know or was she too stupid to wonder what she was swallowing?  

She said that she became aware of what was in the pills she'd been downing for 3 or 4 years only when she was shown them at the Congressional Hearing.  She then made an instantaneous decision to lie.  This is the hardest part for me.  Were I to be called to testify before my government, I would be sure that I prepared for at least the most obvious questions I might be asked.  Were I Marion Jones, I'd certainly for sure without a doubt you know it baby have done some investigation into the contents and provenance of everything I'd been given.  I surely wouldn't walk into a room full of cameras and be surprised when I saw my pills.  She is not an unintelligent woman.  She was not without resources and access to advisers of all make manner and description.  There were no rules preventing her from seeking counsel outside her evil circle of manipulators and givers of proscribed substances.  Claiming naivete isn't much of a defense.  Did she think this wasn't serious?  Had she been living in a cave?  

She didn't go to prison for the use of banned substances.  She went to prison for lying about what she knew and what she did to Congress.  Does no one ever learn?  The cover-up is what does you in every single time.  Nixon wasn't facing impeachment for authorizing the break-in at the Watergate.  He paid off the burglars to cover-up the crime.  Bill Clinton?  Not for unbelievably inappropriate behavior at work but for lying about it.  Imagine if he had said that this was a private matter between him and his wife and his intern and yes, he should probably have found a less venerable location for his infidelity but it's not like Monica was sleeping with the mob like Judy Exner and JFK.  She was working in the White House, she'd been vetted and cleared to enter the West Wing.  Had he admitted to cheating on his wife I think the whole thing would have just gone away.  But no one ever learns.  They think they are bigger than the system that wouldn't understand them anyway and it's there for the little people and so they lie.  And then they are peeved when they're caught.

A quick perusal of the interweb's reaction to her predicament included a story about her desire to keep her very young children from learning that she was going to be in prison for the 6 months she was away.  Watch her talk about taking responsibility for what you've done and come and tell me right away and prepare for the consequences and see what you think.

Yes, America loves to forgive.  Yes, America is the land of second chances.  Yes, it matters what you do afterward.   But it is also important to own up to your mistakes, to say it out loud, to admit to yourself and others that what you did was wrong and that you understand that it was selfish and foolish and had consequences far beyond your own puny little life.  After all, her relay teammates had to return their medals, too.   The fact that she has apologized is obviously not enough for these women, who have not reached out to me.... and there it is, in all its ugly glory.  The whole thing is about ME - poor me, defenseless me, forgiving me, basketball playing me.  I have moved on.  Why can't the rest of you?

I'm not sure that she's the one who gets to decide that Marion Jones has succeeded, book title or not.  From my vantage point, she's got a lot more work to do.

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