ESPN Marion Jones Documentary Falls Short on Sincerity

by Edward Gemdjian

Marion Jones is my favorite female athlete of the early century.  She was an extremely hard worker and always a professional.  When she finally admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, I had many questions about what led her to her decisions and how she beat the very accurate Olympic testing.

Needless to say when I found out ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series was doing a piece on Jones, directed by John Singleton no less, I was extremely excited.  I even got my girlfriend to watch it with me.  After an hour full of dramatic speeches in front of high school students and a story about how she landed herself in solitary confinement during her stint in prison, Cathy and I looked at each other with confusion.  “Is it over?  What about…”

Unlike most sports fans I actually did not lose respect for Marion Jones as an athlete when the news of her PED use spread.  I understand the pressures top athletes have to continually perform, Marion Jones was in the spotlight as a two sport  phenom since she was a Sophomore in high school.  I’m sure coaches, fans, family and media all played a part in pushing her mentally and physically past any normal person’s limits.  At some point in her career, not highlighted in this documentary, the pressure became so great that Jones conceded to use PED’s.  At some point soon after, she somehow successfully beat numerous drug tests on her way to a 5 medal performance in the 2000 Olympics.  Throughout this whole time, I can not imagine the guilt and shame that she was going through, while continuing to paint a picture of an honest, hard working professional.  She endured more than 4 years of accusations, while still competing.

When did Marion Jones first begin using performance enhancing drugs?  What or who led her to believe that her natural ability was not good enough to win?  Was she on during the Olympics or did she cycle off before hand?  Did she continue to use while fighting off accusations and being tested constantly?  Is she now remorseful because she chose to use PED’s or because she got caught lying?

Not one of these questions was asked or answered during this film.  It seemed John Singleton was more interested in promoting Jones’ new career in the WNBA, and flirting with her any time the two were on camera together.

As for Jones, there is no sincerity in admitting to what you were already convicted of doing.  Tell us the whole story, the one about public pressure, self esteem issues, crooked coaches, demanding sponsors.  Tell us you were wrong, tell us your greatest effort wasn’t good enough to win without PED’s, tell us something we didn’t know 2 years ago.

I was desperately hoping this film would convince me to respect Marion Jones as a person as much as I respect her as an athlete.  She had every opportunity to really be a cautionary tale for young athletes.  Instead all we got was an advertisement for an aging professional basketball player averaging 9 minutes and 3 points per game.

Edward Gemdjian is a NASM certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. Team Awesome is his response to the myriads of misinformation about health and fitness in the media. He currently sees clients exclusively at Equinox Fitness in Chelsea, New York.

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