On the Right Track

"In the 2000 Olympics, I became the first woman to win five medals in a single Olympic Games. People hailed me as one of the fastest women in the world," Marion Jones remembers. "After the 2000 Games, I was definitely ranked as the best athlete in the world at that time. I won pretty much every race that I ran. I was World Champion in the 100, 200 meters, I was on the cover of Time magazine, and I was the Athlete of the Year ESPY Award winner. You know, I had the fame, I had the fortune. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction. I had everything, and I lost it all because I lied."

In 2003, the track star was subpoenaed to testify in a federal investigation into illegal steroid distribution. She was granted immunity from prosecution if she told the truth.

"I was given performance-enhancing drugs by my coach, and unbeknownst to me, they were what was termed later as The Clear, or THG," she says. "I was subpoenaed by the federal government to be a part of the investigation into Balco [Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative]. Toward the end of the interview, they pull out this little vial. It has a substance in it. At that moment, I realize that what he's shaking in front of my face is something that had been given to me. In the blink of an eye, I thought about the years and years that I trained, I thought about the lifestyle that I was living. If I told them that I had been given this substance, all that could potentially be taken away. A federal investigator asked me about this substance, and if I recognized it, and I told him that I didn't, and it was a lie. He asked me if I had ever taken a performance-enhancing drug called The Clear, and I told him no. That was a lie. He asked me if I had ever taken any performance-enhancing drug. I told him no, I hadn't. It was a lie."

[AD]Four years later, she confessed that she lied and was sentenced to six months in prison.

Marion recounts her fall from grace and her journey to rebuild her life in her book, On the Right Track.

Marion tells Dr. Phil, "For so long, my story was written for me, and I felt I owed it to my family, I owed it to my fans and my supporters around the world to share with them, in my own words, my journey. Even bigger than that, Dr. Phil, I have three little kids at home, and I want to be a living example to them. That once you make a mistake, your life is not over. It's what you do after that. And I wanted for them to see that I did not give up, that I continued to help people make a better life for themselves by looking at my story and hopefully seeing the struggles I've been through and making it better for them."

Dr. Phil gets to the heart of the matter.


"So, at no time in your mind did you ever believe that you were cheating?" Dr. Phil asks Marion.

"That's correct," she says.

"So, you didn't cross the finish line in the Olympics or anywhere and have that tarnished because in the back of your mind, you thought, ‘I just won this race, but I had to cheat to do it'?" he asks.

[AD]"No," she says. Marion says when she crossed the finish line in Sydney, she was overcome with emotion because she knew she trained hard and felt blessed with her talents.

"At what point did you decide to come clean and tell the truth?"

Marion explains that when she was expecting her second child in 2007, she knew she couldn't hold onto her lie anymore. "I wanted to start fresh, so I decided to plead guilty to lying to federal investigators," she says.

Marion recounts her time in prison:

"March 5, 2008, I walked inside Carswell Federal Institution. I was no longer Marion Jones, I was just a prisoner," she says. "One of the first things I was required to do was a strip search. Carswell smelled like a sweaty locker room that ended up in a public restroom. Many nights I could not sleep. I feared for my safety. The guards would come in several times a night, slamming the doors, just doing everything to try and break you.

 

"A month and a half into my sentence, my roommate tried to pick a fight. When I tried to leave, she blocked me from leaving, so I defended myself: I kicked her, I hit her, I did whatever I could. You could be the fastest woman in the world and have a hard time trying to get out, and that's what it came down to. The fight landed me in solitary confinement for over 48 days. My time in solitary was definitely the next step to hell, but when I had so much time to reflect on my life, I made a decision that I control what happens to me. You make mistakes, but it's what you do after the mistakes that ultimately you are hopefully judged by," she says. 

Dr. Phil says, "You talk in the book about the fact that you think, as terrible as it was, that this was actually a blessing for you."

"Yes. No doubt," she says. Marion explains that without that six months of time on her hands to think about who she is and who she wants to be, she might not have come to the decision to prioritize her life and make changes. "Life is not about sport. It's about how you can give back, how you can help, and I had to be put in prison for six months to realize that, and in a way, I'm glad I did," she says.

[AD]Dr. Phil explains that there are people who won't believe she didn't cheat on purpose. "And you are clear, there is no equivocation in your mind and voice, you never consciously made a decision to take a performance-enhancing drug?" he asks.

"One hundred percent clear," she says.

 

Marion explains what she wishes people to learn from her.