Track and Field Icon Marion Jones
By Cheryl Wilcox
The 700 Club
CBN.com - The 700 Club’s Special Correspondent, Scott Ross spoke with track superstar, Marion Jones about her public fall after winning Olympic gold. She says, “This is an individual who has graced the covers of Time Magazine, Vogue Magazine, is making millions of dollars, household name, and I am in a cell (federal prison) the size of a bathroom, just me and my thoughts and my Bible, pictures of my kids, and my memories.”
She was born fast -- a sprinting spectacle – an Olympic champion. Powerful and poised, Marion Jones was a track and field icon – the fastest woman in the world.
“I fed off of that emotion. I looked forward to it. I anticipated it that at that moment everything that I had worked for came down to those 10, 11 seconds. All eyes were going to be on me, and I had to perform.”
Scott Ross: “How did fame affect you?”
Marion: “I thought that I was handling right. But, looking in hindsight I certainly wasn’t. I had got caught up, as I like to say, ‘in the wave of fame.’”
The tide ebbed for Marion in 2008 when the door slammed on a federal prison cell for her role in the infamous Balco affair, a steroid abuse investigation. Marion claims her coach introduced the steroid known as ‘the clear’, a banned substance, as the nutrient, flaxseed oil. When investigators probed, she denied any knowledge of it, only to end up 6 months in prison.
Scott: “That’s pretty harsh stuff.”
Marion: “It is. It was one of the hardest federal female prisons in the country. I found myself in a situation that I had to defend myself. Because of that, I was in solitary confinement for over 45 days. I was locked up 23 out of 24 hours a day. And many times 24 out of 24 hours a day.”
Marion’s public fall from world’s fastest woman to felon, is the subject of her memoir, On the Right on Track. Her Olympic dream began in 1984, when Los Angeles was host to the summer Olympics.
Marion: “My step-dad took me to the Olympic parade and I saw the athletes waving. That summer I sat in front of my television and I watched them. I watched the athletes cross the finish line. That summer I wrote on my chalkboard that I was going to be an Olympic champion.”
“My mom has told me that she never doubted me. I mean, cause kids always…”
Scott: “Sure… dream.”
Marion: “But then to fast-forward a few years, at the age of 14 I made my first Olympic team.”
By the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, 24 year old Marion blazed into the record books.
Marion: “I had attempted to win five gold medals, and I walked away with five medals, three of them being gold and two of them being bronze.”
She was the first female athlete to garner 5 medals in a single Olympic games. Marion’s superstar status was secure in Olympic glory until 3 years later when a federal doping investigation among elite athletes revealed her feats were fueled by steroids. In 2007, Marion pled guilty for lying to federal investigators, and was sentenced to prison.
Marion: “I chose to not ask questions and ignore possible warning flags. When it came down to it and I was confronted by federal investigators, and I knew the difference between right and wrong. Hey, I knew the difference between right and wrong. I made the choice to lie. I made the choice to break the law. The hardest part to me was knowing that so many people who loved me and cared for all this time would just be incredibly disappointed in me.”
Her fame turned to infamy when she entered prison. But, there in solitary confinement, broke, stripped of her medals, all her prize money, and contact with her husband and two sons, Marion encountered God.
Marion: “Prior to entering prison I found out that I was allowed to bring in a Bible and you’re allowed to bring in a couple of pictures and pretty much that’s about it. When I was in solitary, I found myself opening it up and the words just kind of just oozing into me. And I was like a sponge. Sometimes God puts you in situations where there’s nothing else. You have to turn to Him and I feel comfortable saying that. And it’s okay that I really feel that God put me in a situation, slowed down my life enough to say, ‘Hey, you know what, Marion? I should certainly be the most important thing in your world.’”
Scott: “Because of that surrender to God, to Jesus, that it was worth it to pay that price?”
Marion: “Absolutely! I say it all the time. Absolutely. I wouldn’t wish it on my enemy, but actually I would.”
“You know if it will change them in such a positive way. It has helped me to prioritize what’s important in my life. It’s not fame. It’s not fortune.”
“God’s still working on me. I don’t want people ever to think that ‘I have figured it all out.’ and ‘I know the plan.’ It’s not like that. I’m still a work in progress. But all along I know what I’m doing is God’s work.”
After serving her sentence, Marion was reunited with her husband Oba, and sons. She went on to play professional basketball in the Women’s NBA. And she had her daughter.
Marion: “In the span of three or four years, I’m in solitary confinement. How in the world can so much good…has happened in my life since then? It could only be Him.”
“I wanted to share my journey with people, with the hopes that people can be inspired and they can hold on to hope by listening to everything that I’ve been through, ‘cause I certainly was at a point where hope was gone. I thought it was gone.”
“I like to say that, I’m still Marion Jones, but I’ve just been transformed.”
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