Marion Jones was arguably the greatest female athlete ever. She won 3 gold and 2 bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In the 100-meter race, she pulled away so quickly that her closest pursuer was nearly 3 full strides behind her. No doubt, she could have won great recognition without steroids, but she got greedy, used them and denied it for years. Now she’s headed to prison for 6 months away from her two young sons. She also has 2 years of probation and 800 hours of community service. Her Olympic medals and endorsements are gone and she is ostracized from the sport she once dominated. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas gave her the maximum in order to send a message. He said, “Athletes in society have an elevated status. They entertain, they inspire, and perhaps, most important, they serve as role models.” All athletes in all sports should be listening and so should all attorneys and all Americans.
No one can read Marion’s story without sadness. After years of denial, it was only in October 2007 when mounting evidence forced her to admit cheating. In her 2004 autobiography, in oversized red letters, speaking of performance-enhancing drugs, she wrote, “I have never taken them and I never will take them.” After the guilty pleas, outside court, she said, “It’s with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust. I have been dishonest, and you have a right to be angry with me. I have let my family down. I have let my country down, and I have let myself down…I want to ask for your forgiveness.”
After being sentenced, Marion, who had begged for mercy, said with tears, “I’m very disappointed today, but as I stood in front of all of you for years in victory, I stand in front of you today. I stand for what is right. I respect the judge’s order, and I truly hope that people will learn from my mistakes…I know the day is quickly approaching when my boys ask me about these current events. I intend to be honest and forthright…and guide them into not making the same mistakes.”
Jesus was honest and forthright when He described the devil as “a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Earlier He had said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:32,36) His words, from a very different context than Marion’s or ours, still ring loud and clear. They penetrate our discussions on steroids, insider trading, creative accounting, plagiarism, tampering with a witness or jury and all the rest.
Ever been tempted to lie? Sure, you have. Ever been used by the devil to tempt others to lie. Probably. Ever give in to the temptation and actually lie? Certainly! Were you put in prison for 6 months? Probably not. Ever lose your career and every award you ever won because of lying? Ever keep your career and your awards, but knew you had lied to gain some of them? It’s not unknown for attorneys to alter documents to make them lie, but it should be unknown for Christians who have been set free by the truth and by The Son. We have a higher standard. We have a different Father. We want to imitate His truthful Son.
Of the Marion Jones case, USA Track and Field president Bill Roe said correctly, “It is a vivid morality play that graphically illustrates the wages of cheating in any facet of life, on or off the track.”
Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey. All rights reserved.