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In October 2007, Marion Jones admitted using steroids in preparation for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Subsequently, Jones was stripped of the five gold medals she’d won. Jones pled guilty to two counts of perjury for lying about using steroids and unrelated charges for a check fraud scam. After lying for years about her steroid use, Jones admitted that she lied to federal investigators about her use of “the Clear,” a designer steroid. In her guilty plea, Jones said her coach, Trevor Graham, began giving her the steroid in 2000, but he told her it was flaxseed oil. She claims she did not realize it was the steroid until she left Graham and stopped taking it. Jones also admitted lying about her knowledge of her older son’s father’s involvement in a check fraud scheme designed to cash millions of dollars of stolen or forged checks. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment on the count of perjury stemming from her steroid use and two months for the count related to the check fraud scheme, to be served concurrently. Additionally, she received two years of probation and supervised release, during which time she is required to perform 800 hours of community service working with young athletes to spread an anti-drug message.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas gave Jones the maximum sentence under her plea deal. The Sentencing Guidelines suggest 0-6 months of imprisonment and prosecutors did not recommend a sentence outside the recommended Guidelines. Many speculated that Jones would not receive a prison sentence, but instead would receive probation or home confinement. Admittedly, Karas gave Jones the maximum sentences to “send a message to athletes who have abused drugs and overlooked the values of ‘hard work, dedication, teamwork and sportsmanship.’” Karas stated, “Athletes in society have an elevated status. They entertain, they inspire and perhaps most importantly, they serve as role models for kids around the world.” Defending his imposition of the sentence, Karas said he did not believe Jones’ claims that she was unaware she was taking the Clear and that she thought the substance was flaxseed oil. He doubted that an athlete of Jones’ caliber could fail to realize the effects of a drug on her performance.
In late July, CNN.com reported that Jones asked President Bush to commute her prison sentence. Douglas G. Logan, the new CEO of USA Track and Field, wrote President Bush a letter asking him to deny Jones’ request. Clearly, President Bush should not grant Jones’ request. She knowingly broke the law by lying to investigators and should serve the full sentence. Commuting Jones’ sentence would send a message to athletes that they are above the law. Jones shamed herself and America by using steroids in preparation for the 2000 Olympics. As I watch the Olympics in Beijing, I can only hope that Olympians have learned from Jones’ mistake and that eight years from now, U.S. athletes will not be returning any medals from these Olympics.
Marion Jones Gets 6 Months in Prison, CBSnews,com, Jan. 11, 2008, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/01/11/sports/main3699978.shtml?source=RSS&attr=_3699978.
Lynn Zinser, Judge Sentences Jones to 6 Months in Prison, The New York Times, Jan. 12, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/12/sports/othersports/12jones.html.
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