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Storm Fronts

Marion Jones might not be guilty by association with her husband, but there is a decided taint in the Sydney air, even if she wins five golds.

September 27, 2000|BILL PLASCHKE

SYDNEY, Australia — Marion Jones ran today.

She laced up her blue shoes and pushed back her silver necklace and ran.

So simple. So splendid.

She wasn't running from accusations that she is on drugs, or that she knew her husband was on drugs, or that she is a complete idiot for marrying that lug in the first place.

She wasn't running from the media, or the IAAF, or USATF, or the IOC.

Marion Jones ran to a finish line.

She laced up and sprinted 200 meters, starting slow, finishing with a burn, stepping regally across the final meters as if marching.

The Olympic Stadium crowd roared.

She walked inside and laughed.

"I'm going to come back tonight and hopefully have another easy heat, unless somebody wants to get in there and race me," she said, her first round complete. "I sure hope not."

A little girl again, Marion Jones ran today.

So simple. So sad.


It's gone, you know.

Just like that.

Vanished, in the time it takes for a whisper to reach an ear, in the time it takes for a tear to reach a cheek.

The aura, the wonder, the glow, gone.

Marion Jones may win her five Olympic gold medals this week, as she has bravely promised often during the last two years.

But it turns out that our purest hope has been living with a guy who isn't.

And defending a guy who isn't.

And now people are wondering whether she is sharing Flintstone vitamins with a guy who isn't.

It is quite unseemly, this guilt by marriage to a previously mostly anonymous shotputter named C.J. Hunter.

Just because he failed four steroid tests this summer doesn't mean she ever even saw a drug.

If it was an accepted truth that married couples always know each other's business, then there would be no such thing as extramarital affairs.

Besides, Hunter is denying that he ever used steroids, claiming he was taking a nutritional supplement.

The public likely doesn't care.

The cheers will still be loud.

These insinuations are not fair.

But drugs aren't fair.

The fight to rid the Olympics of them--and thus, save the Olympics--must be as down and dirty as the discus thrower shooting up in a shower stall.

It not only a fight for today, but tomorrow.

It is not only about a Taiwanese weightlifter on steroids, but a Des Moines teenage wrestler who is considering them.

It is not about only veteran runner who thinks pills are his last hope, but a high school cross-country champion who thinks pills are her only hope.

It is an effort as nasty, but important, as the one that weekly relieves our homes of our garbage.

It is no coincidence that the streets here are a mess.

As of this afternoon, 36 athletes have already been bounced from the Olympics or prohibited from showing up because of positive drug tests.

That's twice as many ejections as in the last three summer Olympics combined.

A medal ceremony is bizarrely repeated in the Olympic Village after a drug-cited Bulgarian weight lifter surrenders his gold.

A Romanian girl no bigger than a thumb loses a gold medal for taking cold medicine.

A Romanian hammer thrower, the world champion, is led off the track in tears moments before her first throw today when she is declared dirty.

The entire testing and informing process is crazy.

But drugs are crazy.

One banned athlete claims somebody spiked his toothpaste with steroids.

Another guy claims he uses steroids to cure baldness.

And so Marion Jones is married to a man who recently failed four tests so badly, one included the presence of 1,000 times the legal limit of a banned substance.

And she and her husband knew about it, at the latest, shortly before the Olympics.

And yet she did not announce, denounce, or even acknowledge.

And, incidentally, in 1997, Jones returned from a virtual two-year absence from the sport to become a world champion after meeting her husband.

So now we must wonder about Marion Jones.

If the U.S. taints, then the U.S. must be tainted.

If the U.S. accuses, then the U.S. must also stand accused.

Four years ago, our swimming folks criticized triple gold-medal swimmer Michelle Smith of Ireland, who improved her times while meeting and marrying a banned shotputter.

Turns out, our swimming folks were right.

Today Jones bears the weight of that truth.

This week, our swimmers have nudged and winked about the cleanliness of Inge de Bruijn, the three-time Dutch gold-medal swimmer with the suddenly fast times and bodily changes.

Jones also bears the weight of those charges.

"All I can do is be clean and to be around people who are clean," Marion Jones said in a book published a few months ago.

The relationship between associations and behavior were important to her then.

Aren't they equally as important now?

In a battle of a lifetime this week, Marion Jones deserves everyone's support.

But the Olympics, mired in a much larger and important fight, also deserved hers.


Bill Plaschke can be reached at his e-mail address:

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