Saturday, October 6, 2007

Marion Jones Controversy and the Medals of Jearl Miles Clark, Monique Hennagan, La Tasha Colander-Richardson, and Andrea Anderson

Followup.

This part of the Marion Jones story is significant.

She took performance-enhancing drugs at least as early as 1999....

The International Olympic Committee can reach back eight years to strip medals from athletes proven dirty. Jones captured five of those in [the 2000 Olympics in] Australia, three gold – 100m, 200m, long jump – and two relay bronzes.


Note the last two medals. One of the relay medals was for the 400 meter relay. From Sports Illustrated:

Postrace Analysis:

Marion never had a chance. The United States -- already trailing the eventual gold medalist, the Bahamas -- had a poor second exchange between Torri Edwards and Nanceen Perry. By the time Jones got the baton, the United States was well back in fourth.


But the 1600 meter relay is a more interesting case.

Postrace Analysis:

Marion was the key to this victory, running a sterling third leg. She took the baton just behind the Jamaican runner, was even by the turn and took the lead heading down the backstretch. Coming off the final turn, she kept pulling father ahead until handing the baton to Latasha Colander-Richardson about 15 meters in front. Her split was unofficially 49.57.


This resulted in a win for the following Olympians:

MILES, Jearl
HENNAGAN, Monique
JONES, Marion
COLANDER-RICHARDSON, La Tasha
ANDERSON, Andrea


If, as Sports Illustrated claims, Marion Jones' "clear" performance was key to this win, does this mean that Jearl Miles Clark, Monique Hennagan, La Tasha Colander-Richardson, and Andrea Anderson obtained their medals illegitimately?

If so, should they be stripped of their medals also? After all, if one member of the team cheats, the whole team cheats.

However, is it fair to strip the other four of their medals, even though they themselves (presumably) performed without the benefit of performance-enhancing drugs, and even though they (presumably) didn't even know that Marion Jones was cheating?

But what if they all kept Marion Jones' dirty little secret? Or what if Jones supplied them with BALCO's finest?

But I'm making this too murky. Even if Marion Jones was the only one in "the clear," there's enough to worry about if only one member of the team was cheating, and the other four members didn't know about it.

For the record, the International Olympic Committee's statement only covers Marion Jones:

IOC STATEMENT ON MARION JONES

5 October 2007

The IOC has learnt about Marion Jones’s intention to plead guilty to lying to federal agents about her use of performance-enhancing substances during her career.

Since 2004, the IOC has had an open file on the BALCO case – it set up a Disciplinary Commission with a view to investigating how the case might have affected Olympic Games' competitions. Progress to date has been slow due to difficulties in gathering findings. The information that Marion Jones might provide later today may prove to be key in moving this case forward.


But what could the IOC use as precedent to decide what to do about the Sydney 1600 meter relay team? Well, let's look at another team sport - NASCAR.

Yes, NASCAR is a team sport. To my knowledge, none of the drivers assembles his or her own car or takes care of it during pit stops.

But things in NASCAR are murky also:

As I left New Hampshire International Speedway Sunday I got to thinking the punishment that NASCAR levied against the teams Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson prior to the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 and just how even more meaningless the punishments looked after the race was over.

After being found with illegal body modifications prior to the June 24 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, NASCAR supposedly came down hard on both teams. Gordon’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, and Johnson’s, Chad Knaus, were both suspended for six events, beginning with the race at NHIS. Each team was also docked 100 points in the driver and owner standings, fined $100,000 and each crew chief was put on probation through Dec. 31.

Neither Gordon nor Johnson looked to be suffering any from their punishment on Sunday at NHIS. Gordon finished second, in contention to go for the win over Denny Hamlin on the final lap. Johnson toward the front most of the day and finished fifth. Clearly the punishment had little or no effect on either team.


Even though there was howling from the people who were caught:

"We are disappointed in NASCAR's decision and feel the penalties are excessive," Hendrick said. "Right now, all of our options are being evaluated, including our personnel situation and a possible appeal to the National Stock Car Racing Commission.

"We'll take some time to decide on a direction and make an announcement regarding our plans for New Hampshire later in the week."


And even though NASCAR asserts that they were tough:

The punishment levied by NASCAR against the two Hendrick teams is consistent with the penalties it handed down against the 8 team. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was docked 100 championship points and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was suspended for six races. Eury will serve the last of his suspension this week at New Hampshire.

NASCAR has been busy this season fining and suspending some of its top teams. The teams of Michael Waltrip, Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and Kenseth were penalized for violations in preparation for the Daytona 500.

Waltrip received the worst of the punishment, as crew chief David Hyder, who is no longer with the team, and competition director Bobby Kennedy receiving indefinite suspensions.

Robbie Reiser, crew chief for Kenseth, and Kenny Francis, team director for Kahne, were each suspended for four races while the team directors of Sadler and teammate Scott Riggs received two-race suspensions.

It will mark the second consecutive year Johnson will race without Knaus atop his pit box. Knaus was suspended for the first four races of 2006 when the 48 failed post-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500. Knaus, who had been under NASCAR scrutiny before, was ejected from Speedweeks.


And Johnson suffered as a result - no he didn't:

Undeterred, Johnson won the Daytona 500 and two of the four races without Knaus. He finished second and sixth in the other two races and went on to win his first Nextel Cup championship.

So if the IOC follows the model that NASCAR used above, only Marion Jones would be liable, even though the whole relay team benefited from her cheating.

But will people be as upset with the IOC as they were with NASCAR, or will people be satisfied if Jones is the only one who takes the fall?

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

i think your medals are mixed up.
long jump was a bronze.
the 1600 relay was a gold.

Ontario Emperor said...

You probably also noticed the error in the French article (check the names). The IOC information is, of course, correct.

Bret said...

Forget about whether you have the facts straight about which medals Jones won for which event. Your question is nevertheless well stated: If Jones cheated, and is stripped of her medals, then isn't her entire team guilty of cheating?

I guess I would have to pose a hypothetical scenario to answer the question. If a relay team racer false starts or passes the baton outside the exchange zone, then isn't the entire disqualified? I believe the answer is yes. The fault of one impacts the entire team in this situation. Therefore so too does Jones' doping practices. If the Olympic committee plans to strip her of her relay gold, then they must do so for the entire team.

Ontario Emperor said...

Followup here.

Ontario Emperor said...

Another followup. Peter Ueberroth has spoken.