This spring once track uber-star Marion Jones applied for commutation of her six-month prison sentence, which she is serving for her involvement in the BALCO steroids scandal, for perjuring herself, and for check fraud. Jones, who gave up her five Olympic medals from Sydney in 2000 (three of them gold) has been in jail since March. She applied for the commutation (not a pardon) soon after she started her detention in a Texas slammer, in part because she has an eight-month old son, and because, well, people who do far worse are pardoned all the time.
Scooter Libby, who was convicted on five counts of federal obstruction of justice and perjury charges resulting from the grand jury investigation into the CIA identity leak of Valerie Plame didn’t have to serve a day of his 30-month prison term. Bush commuted Cheney’s former chief-of-staff’s sentence (without Libby even applying for the commutation) calling the sentence “too harsh.”
Today the head of the USA Track and Field sent Bush a letter, imploring him not to pardon Jones. “To reduce Ms Jones’ sentence or pardon her would send a horrible message to young people who idolized her, reinforcing the notion that you can cheat and be entitled to get away with it.” He also said that a commutation or pardon would reinforce the notion that those with “athletic talent, money or fame” enjoy the benefits of a legal double standard.
Double standards in this administration is the standard. Lying and obstructing justice when it comes to a steroids scandal is inexcusable, but lying when it comes to national security is, by action taken, excusable?
Yes, steroids have created a clusterf**k (sorry, there really isn’t a spot-on PG-rated term to describe this mess) of a national sports system, and one that will continue to taint the world-sports stage for years, if not decades, to come, but Marion Jones has likely already been through enough to ensure she’s an example not to be idolized (she’s now broke, humiliated, a felon). Similar to the colossal waste of time that was the steroids investigation on Capitol Hill earlier this year, let’s get on with it.
Bush, if he had any gumption, would commute her sentence, forgive and forget. Sure, she lied, but its not like she was hiding WMD or anything, and lying is sort of de rigueur for this administration, and he sure is one for a “consistent philosophy.” And that the USA Track and Field big wigs are trotting out this don’t-make-a-hero-of-the-fallen routine just before the Olympics is predictable, if hollow, timing. There is not a chance in Michael Johnson’s golden shoes that UST&F was not aware of the steroids running amok in the sport over the last decade-plus. But anything to win, isn’t that the American way? And if winning the war in Iraq and the war on terror is looking grim, well, we sure as hell better win on the field.
Beijing, here we come. Bring ’em on.