CHICAGO (Reuters) - Disgraced Olympian Marion Jones, stripped of her medals and facing six months in prison, told Oprah Winfrey on Wednesday she admitted her steroid use because she could no longer live with her lies.
“I have no regrets for doing what I did on October 5, pleading guilty and admitting to the world that I lied,” Jones told the talk show host.
“I want people to understand everybody makes mistakes ... I truly think a person’s character is determined by their admission of their mistakes and beyond that what they do about it ... It’s really about looking forward, looking to the future, how can I make this wrong a right,” she said.
A New York judge last week sentenced Jones to six months imprisonment for lying to government prosecutors about her steroid use and two months, to run concurrently, for misleading investigators about a check fraud case involving her ex-boyfriend, former 100-metres world record holder Tim Montgomery.
Earlier the sprinter was stripped of the five medals she won in the Sydney Olympics, three of them gold, and all of her performances as of September 2000 were erased from the record books.
Asked by Winfrey why she had repeatedly denied the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Jones said: “I made a mistake. I made the choice to, at that time, protect myself, to protect my family, and I’ve paid the consequences dearly.”
The talk show host then asked Jones why she decided to come clean.
”It’s been a long journey,“ the 32-year-old athlete said. ”The weight and the baggage of many years of knowing that. I’ve been blessed with a super amount of talent but I could not go on any more with this baggage, lying to the world, lying to God.
“I realized that people might not forgive me but that God forgives, and if He can forgive me I can forgive myself and I will be okay,” she added.
Jones spoke by a video link-up from Austin, Texas, to Winfrey in her Chicago studio, for airing Tuesday. The talk show host said Jones had agreed to another interview once she is released from prison.
She said her current situation “is absolutely the hardest you could imagine” and she and her husband, Olympic sprinter Obadele Thompson, have not told her four-year-old son that she must report to prison by March.
“It’s going to be challenging,” she said. “We teach our kids do to the right thing.”
Turning in her medals and watching her records erased, she said “impacted me greatly but ... the pain and the hurt that my family and my friends have had to endure throughout all of this outweighs all of that.”
“I’ve returned the medals, the performances have been taken away. But they pale in comparison to seeing my husband cry, they pale in comparison to have to see my mother have to stand there in the courtroom and bawl.”
Asked if she felt she was being made an example of, Jones said “I‘m not going to sit here and say I‘m happy with the decision and that it’s all well and fine. Of course I‘m disappointed (with the jail sentence). But ... I put myself in a position of having someone else determine my immediate future.”
“I have to live with it. My family has to live with it. With the grace of God we’ll get through it (and) come out even better at the other end.”
“I want to use my story to help people,” she said.
Editing by K.T. Arasu and Philip Barbara