Marion Jones Gets Six Months in Prison

Judge tells disgraced Olympian she should have been a role model for children.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 9:18 AM

Jan. 11. 2008 — -- In the end, Marion Jones could not outrun her own lies.

Federal Judge Kenneth M. Karas sentenced the disgraced gold medalist to six months in prison and two years of supervised release on Friday. She will also be required to perform 800 hours of community service.

The sentence completed a painful fall from grace for the charismatic athlete, who in one bright shining Olympian moment won three gold medals and two bronzes in the 2000 Summer Games -- and seven years later was stripped of those medals for using performance-enhancing steroids.

"Athletes in society have an elevated status," the judge said before imposing sentence. "They entertain. They inspire. And perhaps most importantly, [they serve] as role models for children around the world."

Those children, the judge inferred, were lied to by Jones who should instead have been a model for "hard work, sportsmanship," and the lessons of "how to win and lose within the rules."

Instead it was those ideals that became stained when Jones made her first honest admissions to the government in the spring of 2007 that she had cheated by using steroids.

"I absolutely realize the gravity of the offenses I've committed. I want to apologize," Jones told the court before breaking down in tears. "I plead with you" to not separate "me from my boys even for a short while," she begged the judge.

The judges opinion comes at a time the world is watching to see how the Major League Baseball steroid case unfolds.

Jones' medals were forever tarnished on Oct. 5, 2007, when she pleaded guilty in this same courthouse to charges that she ingested performance-enhancing steroids and lied to federal investigators.

"I panicked and told the agents that I had never seen the substance before. This was a lie," Jones wrote in a letter sent to friends and family before that appearance.

But her interview with investigators was not the first time the 32-year-old track and field star had lied about the drug designed to help increase performance and that may have helped determine how fast she ran, how high she jumped and how she was able time and again to outdistance formidable competitors -- perhaps cheating them of their just laurels.

In her 2004 book, "Marion Jones: Life in the Fast Lane," Jones wrote in large red letters, "I am against performance-enhancing drugs. I have never taken them and I never will take them."

Despite the judge's statement that Jones had been "quite adamant in her denials," the fallen star's attorneys sought to paint her as repentant, humbled, chastened, a woman who had been "pilloried," "savaged," "stoned," and dragged through the "public square."

Wearing a white blouse, dark skirt and with her hair pulled tightly back, Jones was mostly stoic during the sentencing. But as her attorneys defended her, Jones' jaw trembled, and she wiped back tears.

Even the prosecutors told the judge that Jones "did come clean" and defended their recommendation for a sentence of zero to six months of jail time.

But Karas was unconvinced and reminded the court that Jones' past denials of steroid use helped perpetuate a "worldwide lie." And he noted, she had made two telling choices. "The choice not to play by the rules was compounded by the choice to break the law," the judge said.

Jones was once the most celebrated female athlete in the world. A runner and long jumper, she won three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Her big smile and charming personality made her a star, and endorsements made her rich.

But in October, Jones told the judge that she'd lied to a federal investigator in November 2003 when she denied using performance-enhancing drugs. She said she took steroids "several times before the Sydney Olympics and continued using them after."