ESPN's 30 For 30 series is presenting a new documentary on former track and field star Marion Jones by John Singleton, set to air on ESPN Tuesday, November 2 at 8/7c. A preview trailer can be viewed here.
I, for one, will be eagerly tuning in to see Singleton's take on Jones' seemingly amazing career and downfall. During the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, when Jones won her five medals (three gold and two bronze), I was just starting my college track and field career, and, even though she was an explosive athlete and I was a long, slow distance runner, I took a lot of pride as an American track and field athlete in what she was able to accomplish. Five medals for any track and field athlete at any meet is a huge accomplishment, but this was the Olympics! I thought she was super-human. In 2007, however, my admiration and respect for this amazing athlete suddenly gave way to disappointment when she admitted to using performance enhancing drugs during the height of her career. She seemed penitent and broken by her actions as she told the press what she had done. She was shortly stripped of her medals.
As silly as it sounds, I remember feeling sad and personally hurt by Jones' admission. She had been a track and field hero of mine, a super-athlete who supposedly showed us the limitless possibilities of hard work and dedication, which are the virtues of all great track and field athletes. She was a female Jesse Owens. With all the bad press that track stars had been receiving about the use of performance enhancers, I was naive enough to think that Jones would be one of the clean ones. It broke my heart a little bit to find out that her greatest successes were predicated on a lie. It's still a punch in the gut to watch her tearing up as she told everyone what she did.
I guess it's an important lesson to learn that sometimes heroes aren't as heroic as we think they are. Jones made a series of mistakes at the pinnacle of an already great career, losing the respect of millions of fans (yes, I'm optimistic enough to believe that a track and field athlete can have millions of American fans!), and she's paid dearly for it. She's still an extraordinary athlete, but she's more human now than she used to be. That's got to be a huge burden to carry, and I wish her the best. I'm curious about Singleton's take on my former hero. If any of you tune in, let me know what you think.