I’ve been thinking about Marion Jones a lot recently. Once called the fastest woman in the world, former track star and U.S. Olympian Marion Jones says she will never run again. Following her September release from prison, Jones sat down with Oprah Winfrey for her first tell-all interview. I watched that interview in late October, and I’ve been reflecting on her sad story (and quietly praying for her) ever since.
In early 2008, Jones was sentenced to six months in prison afterto lying to federal investigators about using the performance-enhancing drug THG, known as “the clear.” Though she still maintains she never knowingly used the drug–her coach said the substance was flax seed oil–she does acknowledge it was her choice to lie once she knew the truth.
Jones explained to Winfrey how she was called in to meet with prosecutors in 2001. When shown a substance they identified as “the clear,” she recognized it as the “flax seed oil” she had been taking. “But in that brief moment,” she confessed, “I made the decision that I had worked so hard in my career and that I knew that by telling them that I had been given the substance and had taken the substance, that all of that was going to be questioned.”
And as we know the wages of sin is death, Jones’s decision to lie led to the death of her career, loss of her Olympic medals, and erasure from the history books as a record-breaking athlete. Hers is a profound lesson on how momentary decisions lead to lifelong consequences. But, more than that, it’s a powerful example of how the impulse to lie often stems from our need for self-preservation.
I’ve never lied to federal investigators, but I’ve been Marion Jones. Afraid of being found out, I’ve clutched the truth and lied. But, what’s done in the dark always comes to the light. And like Jones, when we lie to protect ourselves we ultimately end up exposed, with our future in the hands of others.
I’m still hopeful for Jones. She seems contrite and dedicated to living the rest of her life in a manner that would restore the legacy of her name. I do wish she’d run again, unaided by drugs and unencumbered by her past. I bet she could fly.