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No sympathy for Marion Jones, 6-month prison sentence

11 January 2008

Former Olympic champion Marion Jones, leaving federal court today in New York with her husband, Obadele Thompson, was sentenced Friday to six months in prison for lying about using steroids and a check-fraud scam Former Olympic champion Marion Jones, leaving federal court today in New York with her husband, Obadele Thompson, was sentenced Friday to six months in prison for lying about using steroids and a check-fraud scam
By Jay Drew

Several of Utah's former and aspiring Olympians reacted with shock, dismay and disbelief Friday over the news that record-breaking sprinter Marion Jones has been sentenced to six months in prison and 800 hours of community service for lying in two federal grand jury investigations regarding illegal steroid use and check fraud.

The missing emotion: sympathy.

"I tend to think she got what she deserved," said Weber State cross country coach Paul Pilkington, a four-time Olympic Trials qualifier and a former world marathon champion. "She made millions and millions of dollars, all the while denying other people medals. She kept others from realizing their Olympic dreams by cheating. It's a terrible thing that has happened, but you reap what you sow."

According to U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas, who handed out the sentence at a hearing in White Plains, N.Y., Jones sowed enough lies, perjury and misdeeds to warrant prison time.

"In the end, there's an argument for incarceration," he said, rejecting a defense request for probation. "This was a worldwide lie."

Jones pleaded guilty in October to two counts of obstruction of justice in relation to investigations of illegal steroid use and a check-cashing scheme that allegedly involved fellow track athlete Tim Montgomery.

The International Olympic Committee stripped Jones of the record five medals she won at the 2000 Games in Sydney after she admitted taking banned performance-enhancing substances.

"It's so disheartening, because to me, the name Marion Jones means track and field, and now she has fallen so far," said Lindsey Anderson, a Weber State graduate who hopes to qualify for the 2008 Summer Games in the steeplechase. "And she has tarnished [the sport]. It just goes to show how one person's problems can change so many people's opinions." Jones asked for leniency in the courtroom Friday, telling the judge she shouldn't be separated from her two young children even for a short period of time.

"I ask you to be as merciful as a human being can be," Jones said.

But Karas rejected her plea, saying "Athletes in society have an elevated status and . . . serve as role models."

Brigham Young University men's cross country coach Ed Eyestone, a two-time Olympian, agrees with the ruling and hopes it sends a message to aspiring athletes everywhere, not just in track and field.

"I am all in favor of them handing out the harshest penalties they can," Eyestone said. "Drug cheaters are the bane of our existence, really. Whatever they can do to clean up the sport, I am all for that."

The coach's biggest question, however, is why Jones was able to pass more than 160 doping tests before she was caught. He said he hopes Friday's sentencing sheds light on the fact that there needs to be more out-of-competition testing because cheaters are still a step or two ahead of the testers.

Former BYU track star Josh Rohatinsky and former Ute Teren Jameson, both of whom competed at the Olympic Marathon Trials in November (Rohatinsky was ninth, Jameson 36th), said they have no sympathy for cheaters even if their punishments effect family members.

"When other people cheat, you are the one who is getting cheated," said Rohatinsky, who still hopes to qualify for the 2008 Summer Games in another event at the Olympics Trials in Eugene, Ore., in June. "It's a big slap in the face for people who don't cheat, so when justice is served, there's a sense of satisfaction for athletes who are clean."

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