As Marion Jones
entered the blocks for the 100-meter final at the USA Championships in
Indianapolis last Friday evening, an interested spectator watched from the
stands. "Need to see how she looks," said Maurice Greene, who, like
Jones, won a gold medal in the 100 at the 2000 Olympics. Never known for having
great starts, Jones exploded off the blocks. "Woo, did you see that
start?" said Greene. "Nothing's stopping her."
Nothing did. Jones
led by a half-stride at 60 meters, then held off Torri Edwards, the 2003 world
champ, and Lauryn Williams, the '05 world champ. In the day's third
sprint--rain had canceled Thursday's heats-- Jones crossed the line in 11.10
seconds and calmly raised her hand at the finish. Williams and Edwards were
each .07 off the pace.
back?" Greene was asked by his Olympic sprint teammate Jon Drummond. Greene
merely nodded toward Jones, fingered the three chains around his neck,
including one with a silver embossed #1, and said, "Gettin' some."
are now an afterthought for Jones, especially in a year that features neither
an Olympics nor a world championships. At 30, six years removed from her
five-medal performance in Sydney, she is running to rehabilitate a body rusted
by inactivity and a reputation eroded by scandal. Her aim is to again be No. 1
in the world, and she says, "I think my motivation is at a level I haven't
seen since Sydney."
Although she has
never tested positive for drugs, Jones was accused in 2004 of using steroids by
her ex-husband, former world champion shot putter C.J. Hunter, and BALCO
founder Victor Conte. Tim Montgomery, the father of Jones's three-year-old son,
Monty, retired from the sport last year after being stripped of his world
record in the 100 meters and banned for two years based on evidence from the
BALCO investigations. Those investigations had begun in '03 after Trevor
Graham, a coach Jones had recently dismissed, gave the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency
a syringe containing the designer steroid THG, which had escaped detection in
The win in
Indianapolis marked Jones's fifth national title in the 100 but her first since
2002. She skipped '03 to give birth to Monty, finished fourth at the Olympic
trials in '04--and failed to medal in Athens--and ended her '05 season after
European promoters refused to invite her to meets because of the drug
accusations. The freeze-out ended two months ago when Jones raced in the
Netherlands, winning in 11.16 seconds. Twice this year she's run a decent 11.06
into a headwind and hopes to run in European meets this summer.
Still, Jones, who
was once featured in ad campaigns for Nike, Panasonic and American Express,
remains without a sponsor and ran in Indianapolis in a logo-free outfit.
Privately, some U.S. track officials wish Jones would stay away. ("She's
done enough damage," said one official recently.) The meet program at
Indianapolis mentioned Jones in passing; the cover featured Justin Gatlin, the
sprinter who in the last two years has won Olympic and world titles, tied the
100-meter world record at 9.77 seconds and won over fans by being accessible
and humble. It is ironic that Gatlin, unlike Jones, has had a positive drug
test, for an amphetamine in 2001--the result, he says, of medication he had
taken to treat attention deficit disorder. He got a two-year suspension, which
was later cut in half.
Gatlin won the
men's 100 in Indianapolis last Friday and later strolled under the Carroll
Stadium stands signing autographs, determined to be "the people's
champion," as he puts it. Of his interactions with the crowd, he says,
"Those are the things we want track fans to remember."
has a lot that she wants to make fans forget.