I couldn’t help but think of Martha Stewart as I heard the fate levied against Marion Jones. For pleading guilty to two counts of perjury – Note to all: Lying to the Feds is a major no-no – she was sentenced to six months in prison, two years probation and 800 hours of community service, working with young athletes to warn them against the use of drugs.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Stewart, the media mogul, was given five months in prison and two years’ probation for obstruction of justice and fibbing to federal investigators about her sale of ImClone Systems stock in late 2001. She was also given five months of home confinement after her release and dinged $30,000. The sentence was the minimum allowed under federal guidelines, while the fine was the ma.
As we all know now, Jones’ troubles stem primarily from her decision to use steroids prior to the 2000 Olympics, where she won three gold medals, two bronze and solidified her status as the darling of American sports. She graced the kind of magazine covers that rarely featured female jocks, and she was shot with a stylish elegance that celebrated her beauty, power and grace.
I thought of Martha Stewart for a couple of reasons. I wondered whether someone who had already lost everything had already endured enough. Her medals have been stripped. Once worth millions, her bank accounts are empty. She’s lost three homes, including one occupied by her mother. Her name purged from the Olympic records. And her name? Sullied perhaps beyond recovery. Did she deserve more (even if a mere month more) than a woman who committed the same crime but who was worth a reported $335 million on the day of her conviction and $640 million today?
It doesn’t seem so. Would not six months of house arrest not have sufficed? Especially for a woman, a first-time offender, with two children – one four, the other just seven months old? But I guess all bad choices are not created equal. Both women indeed made bad choices – choices driven by greed and ambition. And as celebrities, both women were partly punished to serve as “examples” to the rest of us – at at least to other celebs, who don’t seem to be getting the message.
But at least Jones can also take solace in this: She’s now at the bottom. She’s now been left only with the essence of who she is as a mother, a wife (looks like she finally chose right in this area) and as a woman. She’s just 32 years old, and has a lifetime left to write a new script.
That is perhaps was she should draw from Stewart, beginning with the thought that her time served can also be a time of renewal. Tomorrow should start the day she turns herself in to federal authorities, not when they release her. No doubt Stewart did deals in prison. She did not stop doing what she does. And neither should Marion Jones.
In our era of Steroid Madness, Jones is just one of many who fell pray to the lure the short-term fix, one that undermanned every moment of hard work she endured en route achieve greatness. But for her at least, that’s done.
All that’s left is for Jones to fold herself back into the starting blocks, bow her head and prepare for the next race. Not as an athlete. That race is over. But she’s just 32 years old. The same power, grace and beauty that made Jones the fastest woman in the world should serve well on another track.
So Marion: On your mark…