Last week I was a tad harsh on USA Track and Field for having taken so long to realize that the powers that be in the doping world are crooked coaches, not just dirty athletes, and that the coaches had to be banned well before they could amass large numbers of athletes who tested positive. Today in my email box, I received USTAF's response to Marion Jones' request to have her prison sentence commuted - a letter to President Bush urging him to reject her request. The response from USATF to the news was fast and unequivocal. Coming as it does under the helm of brand-new CEO Doug Logan, it's a welcome development. The full text of the letter is below; and of course all of us at SI will have much more to say about the developing stories in the world of performance-enhancing drugs as Beijing marches ever closer.
Dear President Bush,
They say you can't always believe what you read in the papers. So, when I read that Marion Jones has applied to you for a pardon or commutation of her federal conviction for making false statements to investigators, I couldn't believe it. She lied to federal agents. She took steroids. She made false statements in a bank fraud investigation - not necessarily in that order. She admitted it. And now she apparently wants to be let off.
As the new CEO of USA Track & Field, I have a moral and practical duty to make the case against her request.
With her cheating and lying, Marion Jones did everything she could to violate the principles of track and field and Olympic competition. When she came under scrutiny for doping, she taunted any who doubted her purity, talent and work ethic. Just as she had succeeded in duping us with her performances, she duped many people into giving her the benefit of the doubt.
She pointed her finger at us, and got away with it until federal investigators teamed up with USADA and finally did her in. It was a sad thing to watch, the most glorious female athlete of the 20th century in tears on courthouse steps.
Our country has long turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of our heroes. If you have athletic talent or money or fame, the law is applied much differently than if you are slow or poor or an average American trying to get by. At the same time, all sports have for far too long given the benefit of the doubt to its heroes who seem too good to be true, even when common sense indicates they are not.
To reduce Ms. Jones' sentence or pardon her would send a horrible message to young people who idolized her, reinforcing the notion that you can cheat and be entitled to get away with it. A pardon would also send the wrong message to the international community. Few things are more globally respected than the Olympic Games, and to pardon one of the biggest frauds perpetuated on the Olympic movement would be nothing less than thumbing our collective noses at the world.
In my new job as CEO of USA Track & Field, I must right the ship that Ms. Jones and other athletes nearly ran aground. I implore you, Mr. President: Please don't take the wind out of our sails.
Douglas G. Logan
CEO, USA Track & Field