- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Marion Jones is the developing mess that goes with the creeping sordidness of the Olympics, the bloated entertainment vehicle that traffics in corruption and graft as a matter of principle.

No one should object to the presence of Jones in Athens, all scandals considered, not even the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

It is too late in the turpitude game to be concerned with the growing stench wafting above Jones.

If Jones beat the drug tests, with a little help from her friends at BALCO, she beat them fair and square.

At least that is the obtuse definition of fair in the International Olympic Committee’s unofficial handbook.

Jones has moved ahead of Barry Bonds in the steroid scandal, if only for the moment, because pretense is essential to the IOC illusion. Baseball is too American to think it promotes world peace. The IOC is too full of itself to think with a modicum of clarity.

So leave Jones alone. Let her be. At worst, she is no worse than many of the rest.

For now, Jones appears up to the challenge of explaining away the circumstantial evidence, starting with the $7,350 check from her account that was made to out BALCO a week before the Sydney Games in 2000.

That check is being dumped on the ample lap of C.J. Hunter, the ex-husband endeavoring to prove that ex-husbands are good for something.

Jones has developed the habit of hanging out with characters of questionable repute, whether it is the ex-husband, the boyfriend, two trainers and Victor Conte, the head of BALCO.

It could be the nature of the sport. Track and field is one of the dirtiest sports, as you might expect from an activity that measures progress by a tenth of a second. Its last vestige of cleanliness was expunged with Ben Johnson in 1988. No matter who you pal around with in track and field, it is liable to be someone dirty.

One of the lawyers who represents Jones calls this “character assassination of the worst kind.”

Lawyers are paid good money to obscure the facts and unfortunate associations.

You would think someone who claims to be clean and has a public image to uphold with Nike would not take up with Canadian Charlie Francis, the one-time trainer of the disgraced Johnson.

The association, innocent or not, is certain to inspire whispers.

Francis followed Trevor Graham, another trainer said to have steroids stored in his closet.

Jones seems to have settled on pleading guilty to dumb. She even has the divorce to confirm one of her dumb alliances.

If not as dumb as she might be, Jones is familiar with obfuscation.

Her best performance in Sydney was at a press conference where she held Hunter’s hand as a gesture of support after his four positive drug results became public and the shot putter was cast as a victim.

Conte pushed the contention with the old tainted supplements trick, which was as convincing as the hand-holding session between Jones and Hunter.

It is hard to believe that Jones did not realize the depth of Hunter’s dirtiness. Secrets, after all, are part of the spousal benefits package.

Hunter’s supplements were not merely tainted. They had to be some of the best stuff around, considering the test showed the steroid nandrolone to be in Hunter’s system by more than 1,000 times the typical amount. He probably could have tossed a refrigerator out of the infield at that point.

The USOC is stuck between the BALCO investigation and the marketing power of Jones.

There is an implicit threat with each.

Both supporters and the suspicious agree that Jones never has failed a drug test, which counts for nothing in the BALCO investigation.

The drug testers never knew Conte’s particular designer steroid existed until a coach ratted him out.

Jones vows to fight if the anti-doping agency initiates a drug case against her.

She already is fighting on the public relations front. And losing.

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