Word came down yesterday that Olympic track champion Marion Jones will admit to using steroids in the run up to the 2000 Games in Sydney, as well as admit to lying to federal investigators about her use. This is one of the big fish that is connected to the BALCO scandal involving baseball and track stars in the U.S., and Jones is also someone who was implicated in the exposÃ© Game of Shadows. I want to give a rundown of the things we have learned about Marion Jones up to this point and let them serve as the mountain of evidence that was accumulated against her.
In 2000, when she competed and won medals at the Olympics, steroid controversy was only just beginning. At that point, the few big names that had been linked hadn’t drawn an enormous public interest. Mark McGwire had been linked, Jose Canseco had been linked, and Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson had been busted. Immediately prior to the Olympics, Marion Jones’ husband at the time, C.J. Hunter, had failed several tests and was banned from competition. I remember seeing shots of him int he stands as he watched Marion compete and the announcers were talking about Hunter as if he had been somehow wronged. As I look back, I realize that the American public just didn’t know enough or care
enough at the time to be upset at the fact that one of our own athletes had cheated. Mind you, this was also the time we were thinking about Chinese swimmers who looked like bodybuilders and people still remembered the East German women who had their body chemistry forever altered by illegal performance enhancers. It was all a part of the competition.
As Jones was winning races, there was one thing that was clear to me. She was not on the same level as the other racers. She was enormous. Not her muscles, but her overall stature. She was several inches taller than the other women she was racing, and she was built differently. So she appeared to have a serious genetic advantage over them. Just watching the races from the perspective that they are shot by the TV crews at the Olympics, she was different. At the time, I said she looked like a man among them, and that might have been accurate. She was just built differently than the other women.
Marion’s coach was a man named Trevor Graham. Graham had run around with a reputation of being dirty. There wasn’t much that specifically linked him with cheating, but people had the idea that he wasn’t on the up and up. At the time, the same could probably have been said about a lot of track coaches who had athletes in the Olympics. It was an underlying theme in the sport, despite the fact that it hadn’t yet reached the proportions that is has reached since in the eyes of the public.
In 2004, after Jones and C.J. Hunter had divorced, Hunter told the federal investigators in the BALCO scandal that he had injected Jones himself with steroids. Jones was disgraced and was humiliated at the 2004 Olympics. She was a shell of her former self.
Trevor Graham wasn’t done at that point, either. Earlier in the year, he had sent the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) a syringe with a small amount of a substance that hadn’t been seen by USADA at that point. His purpose was to implicate other athletes in track and field. It worked. The substance was known to the people pushing it and using it as “The Clear.” You placed a few drops of it under your tongue using either a dropper or a plastic syringe. It was undetectable and potent. If taken with a masking agent, known as “The Cream,” there was no indication to testers that you had increased testosterone levels in your body. In tandem, they were the perfect performance enhancers and had been employed by several of the world’s top athletes, including Marion Jones.
Despite his helping USADA discover the drug, Graham was still considered a dirty player and people kept a close eye on him. Graham athlete Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones’ boyfriend and father of one of her children, was busted for steroids. He implicated himself and fellow BALCO client Barry Bonds in the use of The Clear in 2004. It was yet another connection to both Trevor Graham and Marion Jones in the use of illegal substances.
The Cream and The Clear were the benchmark drugs of BALCO. They invented them. BALCO reportedly offered them to athletes who would endorse their less useful, but more legal, supplements. Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery were introduced at a photo shoot for BALCO products and their relationship took off from there. Barry Bonds also endorsed BALCO supplements. The list of clients at the peak of their careers who endorsed BALCO products is impressive. They were some of the very best in their respective sports.
With Marion Jones’ admission to using the drugs, the investigators have another notch on their wall pointing to their vindication. Jeff Novitsky, the IRS agent who has been called out for having a personal vendetta, but who discovered all of this information in his investigation, continues to rack up wins when the cases are contested. There will be more, mostly because there are people that more is known about. The connections are all there. And the stars keep falling.