- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2008

Marion Jones goes before the high priestess of talk and asks us to believe she never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.

She might as well ask us to believe in the Tooth Fairy.

Jones, in her first post-prison interview, told Oprah that she thought she was being injected with flaxseed oil.

That is a good one. The athletically gifted have a million of them.

Floyd Landis insisted that several shots of Jack Daniel’s whiskey triggered a positive test result at the Tour de France in 2006.

Rafael Palmeiro said a vitamin B-12 injection from teammate Miguel Tejada possibly led to his positive test result for steroid use.

Barry Bonds employed the flaxseed oil and arthritis balm defense and let his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, rot in prison.

And so it goes in a sports culture that breeds a sense of entitlement in the celebrated.

They learn at a young age that they do not have to play by the same rules as others. They are not held accountable for their actions because of the enablers in their midst and those dependent on their athletic performances.

It should not be too surprising that too many athletes, engulfed in a bubble of adulation, sometimes become intoxicated with their self-importance and end up succumbing to their worst instincts.

Jones thought she could deny her way into retirement and no one ever would come up with proof that she was dirty.

She lied to federal investigators about using performance-enhancing drugs. She lied to them about a money-laundering scheme. And she lied countless times to the media whenever suspicions wafted into her vicinity.

Jones always could explain away her questionable associations: an ex-husband, C.J. Hunter, who tested positive for steroid use four times in 2000 while being married to Jones; an ex-boyfriend, Tim Montgomery, who used human growth hormone and is now in prison for his role in a money-laundering operation and dealing heroin; and an ex-coach, Trevor Graham, who had a reputation of supplying his athletes with juice.

It was in this drug-saturated climate that Jones told Oprah she had no idea who was doing what, that she merely thought she was receiving legal supplements to aid her training leading to the Sydney Games in 2000.

You would think that an athlete competing at the highest levels of her sport would be extremely diligent about knowing what was going into her body, right down to that scrumptious slice of chocolate cake.

But, no, Jones wants us to believe that she was too trusting or naive or was just plain dumb to the ways of track and field.

“I thought everyone on that track [in Sydney] was drug-free, including myself,” Jones told Oprah.

Jones is clinging to a fantasy that is at odds with documents seized from BALCO. The doping calendars of the laboratory indicate she was not merely feasting on the designer steroid THG known as “the clear.” She also was using insulin and a testosterone rub known as “the cream.”

Victor Conte, the BALCO founder who served four months in prison, repeatedly has listed in detail the extent of Jones’ performance-enhancing drug use. Asked by Oprah why Conte would lie, Jones said, “There are lots of reasons why people lie. I don’t know specifically why he would lie.”

That is because Conte has no reason to lie at this point. He has paid his debt to society, BALCO has been discarded to the ashbin of sports history and those implicated in the scandal are either serving their sentences or trying to rebuild their lives.

Or, in the case of Jones, sticking to the faint seed of plausible deniability in the hope that the facts of the case are either forgotten or never assimilated by a forgiving public.

Jones, who is only 33 years old, has a life to resume and a name, however tarnished, that could ease the path.

Jones cannot undo all the damage of Sydney. But she can try to spin it, as her appearance on Oprah demonstrated.

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