Marion Jones Completes Her Prison Term

Sep 05 2008 Published by under Doping, Ethics, Scientific Misconduct, Tribe of Science

Marion Jones, former golden girl of track and field has been released from jail.

A federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman says Jones was released Friday morning from a halfway house in San Antonio after serving most of her six-month sentence for lying to federal investigators about her use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The BM had previously noted her "Guilty" plea and subsequent sentencing.


So that's it. She pled, served her time and is done. Well, probably has some probation and maybe some community service but still. That's it.
The logic is clear. Use performance enhancing drugs, rise to the very pinnacle of your sport and win a bunch of medals. With an associated career of financial benefits accruing. Get busted, stonewall, stonewall, stonewall and finally plea to 'lying'. Serve short term and you are good.
It's embarrassing and crappy and depressing, I have little doubt. But do you think that her life now and in the future is going to be worse than if she wasn't a track and field superstar? Really?
As usual this brings us back to fraud in science. What are the risks? What are the rewards? Do the worst case scenario punishments (given the low probability of being caught) act as deterrents?
My answer: Hell no.

12 responses so far

  • D.D. says:

    I don't understand what you're trying to say. An American hero has now been shamed. Her life is meaningless to herself and the American public. She is a pathetic nobody who destroyed herself spectacularly. It's not about "getting caught," it's about becoming nothing. What more horrible fate could you possibly want? I would imagine she's suicidal now.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I have little doubt that she is shamed and humiliated but those things pass.
    My point here is that regardless of what happens now, she had a spectacular career including much financial remuneration based on cheating. You cannot take back the money spent and as far as I know, other than returning the medals, there will be no substantial financial penalties. Time will tell if she is able to leverage her current humbled position in to further financial gain in any way but I would bet she does. A memoir perhaps? Heck, even a small-time coaching job or personal trainer gigs? My bet is that one way or another Marion Jones will continue to profit in a direct financial manner from the heights of sporting success she attained through cheating.
    The point of the post is to ask whether the probability of getting caught, combined with the severity of the punishment, is sufficient to be a deterrent in the face of the rewards of cheating. In science as in sport.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    DM,
    There is no real money in coaching gigs. Jones will never appear in a TV commercial for any sponsor. I doubt any CEO who cares about the reputation of her company will hire Jones for more than a regular paying job. I am almost sure that most of her money was gone to pay her legal fees.
    Rather than bemoaning about the punishment not fitting the crime or its lack of deterrance where doping athletes are concerned, show me a scientist who committed a scientific misconduct and who spent time in jail or was shamed in the media the way Jones had and who didn't get another job in science.
    If you want an example of a scientist who was caught committing a serious scientific misconduct, who was investigated by his university (Washington U, St. Louis) and the NIH and who was forced to leave his position, only to be hired by a previous boss of his (who also left Washington U.) in another university (University of Louisville) to become an endowed chair at this university's Cancer Center, look no further than to Dr. Douglas C. Dean.

  • I am less concerned with Marion Jones and what she will make than I am about all the thieves and criminals in this administration who will walk away with medals of honor, lucrative consulting gigs, billions in stolen taxpayer cash, and yes, no jail time.
    I despise people who cheat in sports, be it Bonds, or Jones or Clemens. But in the larger scheme of things I really don't give a shit. I don't support them and don't watch them. And many other people react the same way. Therefore I, and many others, have some say in the contributions made to these cheaters' future. Not so for the mega-crooks in the administration. They're pillaging in DC now and will simply move to Wall St and PAC alley to continue their pillaging later. I really don't have a say in that, the way the system, laws and regulations are set up nowadays. That bothers the fuck out of me a whole lot fucking more.
    At least Marion Jones did time. According to the principles of civilization, she is entitled to a chance to rebuild her life---even (and hopefully) successfully. Let it go. Focus on the crimes that matter.

  • You know, I don't know how I feel about Marion Jones and Barry Bonds. Dr. Isis is usually too busy prancing around in adorable shoes to pay attention to sports. In fact, I have often argued that baseball would be more interesting if there was a crocodile pit between 3rd and home plates. But your link to fraud in science is an interesting one and there I do have many a strong opinion. I believe you may be inspiring a blog post.
    As academics many of us produce no tangible goods. We are not in the business of manufacturing a product. We are in the business of producing information and training new scientists. And we usually do it with the public's money. Therefore, as producers of information, if we expect people to be able to trust our information, then they need to be able to trust the source of the information. Peer review is an important component in creating this trust. I am a huge supporter of peer review and perhaps one of the few people in my department who doesn't believe the system is broken. However, we also need to be committed to dealing with obvious fraud and impropriety and there we are clearly failing. If'n you ask Dr. Isis, the penalities for fraud must be severe and meaningful. After all, Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life for betting and calling into question the integrity of the game. Fraud in science, at best, might earn you a couple of year ban from receiving NIH funds, but then it's right back in the saddle. I would argue the global consequences of impropriety in science, compared to baseball, are much more important.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Bravo, Isis the Scientist. I could not say it better than that. Again see the case of Dr. Douglas C. Dean mentioned in my previous response.

  • crf says:

    I think her sentence was harsh. There are two systems of punishment at work in her case, one fair, one less so. Her taking performance enhancing drugs was dealt with very fairly by the sports sanctioning bodies.
    But her punishment by the courts for lying to investigators is likely excessive. She was made an example of not just for lying, which may garner a lesser or greater sentence than hers (very often lesser though), but for lying about drugs. Personal drug use has too great an interest from governments, and they seek to punish drug users in a disproportionate manner. The societal harm from her taking drugs was mainly felt by her fellow athletes: her team-mates and her competitors, and was appropriately dealt with. Her additional punishment from what she chose to put into her body (lets not pretend that this can be separated from the legal charge of lying) is unfair.

  • Acai says:

    I remember she was the talk of the olympics several years back. I didn't realize she did time. The risks of performance enhancing drugs are never worth it. Look at lyle alzado former raider. He died clearly damaged from the steroid use.

  • truthhurts says:

    In response to s. rivlin, perhaps you are unaware that, after an exhaustive investigation, the NIH exonerated Dr. Dean of any scientific misconduct. Obviously, Washington University in St. Louis is not publicizing this information, in order to protect its own reputation.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    truthhurts, I should make clear that most of us appreciate there are many sides to any given story. Still, perhaps you could clarify. Did the NIH really exonerate or merely fail to find sufficient cause for censure? Different matter and, of course, different bodies are able to apply different standards for censure.
    Just by way of example, the NIH tends to not concern itself with issues of authorship/ownership/priority dispute. (Research fraud and data falsification is their interest, of course.)
    Check the end of this post for a related bit of parsing from the ORI.
    http://drugmonkey.wordpress.com/2007/09/11/ori-on-plagiarism/
    A University, however, might be full willing to get into such details and to find fault where the NIH ORI would not. I'm not suggesting this is necessarily applicable in the current case, just identifying why both a University censure and a NIH "exoneration" might be totally consistent with each other.

  • truthhurts says:

    The ORI did not find sufficient credible evidence to support the claim of scientific misconduct against Dr. Dean. Washington University concluded its investigation prior to the ORI completing its own. I agree that the university can make its own decisions involving censure, but as an independent entity, the NIH (through its own investigation) came to a different conclusion in this case. Also, the OP does not have his/her facts correct. I worked in this lab, and I know the circumstances. Just hate to see this guy smeared again, as he doesn't deserve it.

  • [...] enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports, aka doping, I'm a confirmed cynic. Each case of a later life confession for prior doping habits, when the person wasn't ever caught by the system, just reinforces cynical [...]

Leave a Reply