R. Rose
October 12, 2007


The public disagrace and humiliation of American super-athlete Marion Jones, beamed via modern technology to billions the world over, is a deeply embarrassing to her fans, as it obviously is to a tearful Marion. For Caribbean people, basking in the glory of the record-breaking accomplishments of this descendant of Caribbean immigrants, her fall from grace must be especially galling. And for the Garifuna people and their brothers and sisters in Belize and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there could be few greater tragedies.{{more}}

The Marion Jones saga is but the latest in the increasingly murky world of professional sports. Much has been written on this subject by persons much more qualified to do so than I am, so my comments would take a somewhat different twist. But Jones’ exposure, following the high profile ones of Justin Gatlin, and long before that the infamous Ben Johnson, must have weakened the confidence of sports fans the world over in fair competition in sport.

In addition to athletics, many other sports have also been tarnished in this regard. Cycling, and the famous Tour de France in particular, has reached its nadir, given the doping scandals surrounding successive winners of this event. Football has had its Maradona affair, and weightlifting has long been plagued by this phenomenon. Worse, it is not just the matter of drug abuse in sport, there are other serious problems. In cricket there has been the umpiring controversy surrounding Australian umpire Darrell Hair which went all the way to the British courts, and who can forget the match-fixing scandals! Nor is match-fixing restricted to cricket. Even lawn tennis has now been tarnished, and this has long been a blight in football, given the attractiveness of the gambling pools, and in boxing as well. All this has led to the pointing of fingers and accusations of “CHEAT, CHEAT.” But as we sanctimoniously condemn those found guilty of such offences, we would be naïve not to look further than their own misdirected indiscretion. For cheating (taking performance-enhancing substances) and gambling in sports are but part of wider phenomena in modern-day society. After all, getting rich, by any means necessary, is the underlying philosophy of capitalist societies. The end, not the means, is what matters most, for, remember, people never get punished for their deeds, they get punished for getting caught, innocent until proven guilty.

So Marion Jones could, for years with her masking drugs, openly deny ever taking performance-enhancing substances as many did before her. So when some of her colleagues came out openly and condemned her cheating, who is to know if they are not in the same boat, innocent until proven guilty? As long as we have a society which rewards one for succeeding, irrespective of the methods, what can we expect? Has Marion Jones committed any bigger crime than the lords of Enron or Martha Stewart for instance?

We live in societies where the biggest drug racketeers, the biggest rapists, the most prolific thieves, are among the “respectables” and “untouchables,” where money buys power and power can guarantee protection. Worth is what matters, not how it was attained. My generation and generations before us grew up with the philosophy “Honesty is the best policy.” Our children and grandchildren have every right to be skeptical about this, for reality is very different. In today’s world, honesty is fast becoming a recipe for poverty.

Finally, when we shout “CHEAT”, let’s take a peep in our own looking glasses. See the businessman who cheats his consumers and robs his workers, those who use legal means to avoid taxes while those who can ill afford must pay up, and our own infidelity towards our spouses. Are we not variants of the cheat that Marion became?