Olympic Champion Marion Jones Rose and Fell: Where Is She Now?

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Marion Jones was America’s golden girl in track & field but her career was all built on lies. Her quick rise was controversial, as doping allegations followed her since she got her breakthrough in high school. After years of denying the reports, she finally admitted to it and what was once a stellar career came tumbling down. 

Apart from athletics, Jones played basketball and was one of the best players for the University of North Carolina. She attempted to revive her basketball career but was unable to. Here’s the full story of the disgraced former runner.

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Marion Jones’ Early Life

Review of Marion Jones’ life and career. Video Credit: The Athlete’s Corner

Marion Jones suffered from loss very early on in her life. Her parents divorced when she was two years old and then she lost her stepfather at the age of 12. She chaneled her grief into sports and played basketball and athletics.

Controversial High School Career

She represented Rio Mesa and Thousand Oaks High School in national competitions. She broke the 200 meters record after completing the race in 22.87 seconds. The athlete was accused of doping but her name was cleared, paving the way for her to receive awards. 

Jones was named the Gatorade Player of the Year thrice and track & field High School Athlete of the Year. Her performance caught the attention of coaches which led to an Olympic trials invitation but she declined.

Like any superstar athlete, Jones came under scrutiny and officials came looking for her for a drugs test. However, after she missed a random test, the youngster was banned from the track but after legal engagements, she was reinstated.

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Basketball Career

Jones’ didn’t wait for her reinstatement. She turned her attention to basketball and she was great at that too. She was one of the most influential players in her high school basketball team. Consequently, the University of North Carolina awarded her a scholarship. 

In her first year, Jones was the starting point guard and the team benefited from that by winning the NCAA Championship. After a spectacular debut season, Jones suffered injuries that prevented her from going for the World University Games Trials and the 1996 Olympics.

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Back to Athletics

spotcovery-Marion Jones standing on the 6th lane
Marion Jones standing on the 6th lane. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.5

When she was nursing her injuries, Marion Jones met short putter Cottrell James Hunter, who convinced her to return to the track. However, the university outlawed athlete-coach relationships so James Hunter left his job to pursue his relationship with her. 

They got married in 1998. The partnership began with success as Marion Jones won the 100m at the 1997 World Championships. Two years later, she won another gold in the 100m and a bronze in the long jump.

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Doping Controversy

spotcovery-Marion Jones at the Sydney 2000 Olympics
Marion Jones at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Public Domain

 Marion Jones qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. However, her participation was controversial after her husband failed four drug tests for testing positive for nandrolone. She tuned out the noise and won three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4 by 400m relays and two medals in the long jump and 4 by 100m. 

The doping allegations never stopped. Jones and CJ Hunter separated before divorcing in 2002 and later remarried. Her performance fluctuated, losing the 100m to a Ukranian sprinter at the 2001 World Championships. She won the gold medal in the 200m and the 4 by 100m. 

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Collapse of Marion Jones’ Career

A look at Marion Jones’ doping allegations. Video Credit: Nicki Swift

At the 2004, Olympics, she failed to get a podium finish in her races and the long jump. In the run to the 2008 Olympics, she seemed to be getting back to her best form. 

However, the BALCO scandal had been brewing and it began to unravel with athletes involved admitting to using banned substances. Jones’ name came up again and she denied the accusations.

The Washington Post reports that the sprinter tested positive in 2006 for the use of a banned substance in one of her samples. She withdrew from a competition she’d entered and later, her second sample returned a negative result and she was cleared of any wrongdoing. 

Jones Admits to Doping

After years of denying doping allegations, Marion Jones admitted to lying to federal agents about her doping track record before and during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She admitted to using performance-enhancement drugs and retired from the sport. Jones was sentenced to 6 months in prison for lying to federal judges.

Athletics officials demanded she return her medals and all the prize money she won during the 2000 Olympics. After release from prison in September 2008, she attempted to return to basketball in 2010 but that proved to be unsuccessful. Marion Jones now lives away from the public limelight. She works as a trainer and a fitness coach.

The story of Marion Jones is sad. She had the talent to be one of the best sprinters in the world but the desire for quick success led to her downfall. Her reputation is tainted and whenever people talk about her, they only recall her cheating scandal. 

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