Marion Jones was just 8 when she wrote on a blackboard, "I want to be an Olympic champion." She was 24 when she won three gold and two bronze medals in track and field at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. And she was 31 when, this Oct. 5, her legacy forever changed from hero athlete to liar and cheat. "I have betrayed your trust," a tearful Jones admitted at a press conference after testifying in a White Plains, N.Y., court that she had used anabolic steroids before, during and after the Sydney Olympics—something she had denied for years. "I have let my country down, and I have let myself down.... I am deeply sorry."
Hers was at once a stunning and not entirely surprising fall from grace: The explosively fast sprinter had long been suspected of using performance enhancing drugs, after three men close to her—ex-husband C.J. Hunter and ex-boyfriend Tim Montgomery, both track stars, and former coach Trevor Graham—were all implicated in steroid scandals. (Hunter and Montgomery were both banned from competing for two years, while Graham, accused of lying to federal agents about distributing anabolic steroids, will go on trial next month.)
Jones finally came clean and pled guilty for lying to investigators about using steroids and about her role in a check-fraud scheme involving Montgomery. "She's a smart woman who made some stupid decisions," says Karen Dennis, coach of the 2000 U.S. Olympic track team. "She could have [won the medals] clean; she clearly had the talent."
Jones retired from track after giving testimony and returned her five Olympic medals Oct. 8. She is likely to be sentenced to a maximum of six months in prison when she returns to court Jan. 11. Living in Austin, Texas, with her son Tim, 4, and new husband, sprinter Obadele Thompson, Jones also claims she is flat broke. "She had everything in the world going for her," says Dennis Craddock, her track coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It's a shame that she let it slip away."
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