Fallen Olympic athlete shares life story, encourages students to make the right choices

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    Fallen Olympic athlete Marion Jones spoke to TCU student athletes Tuesday about her life journey of overcoming struggles. 

    She also provided advice on making the right choices.

    The impact of choices can have an effect on our lives and the people around us, Jones said. 

    She talked about her rise to fame, as the media regarded her as the fastest female athlete on earth, because of her five medals in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

    “I was on top of world, but inside I was a mess,” she said.

    As time went on, Jones said she started slipping and making poor choices.

    In October 2007, Jones pleaded guilty to taking performance enhancement supplements. She had to return the five medals she won from the 2000 Olympic games.

    “No matter who you are or what you achieve in life, your choices have consequences,” Jones said. “Just because the consequences of our time does not come up to when we or others expect it does not mean it’s not going to happen.”

    When asked about why she admitted to the taking supplements of performance enhancement drugs, Jones said that her children were the reason for her admitting the mistake she made.

    “I was telling my kids to do the right thing,” she said, “but I realized that I was a hypocrite.” 

    A lot of people thought that she went to prison for taking illegal supplements, but Jones said it was because she lied to the federal investigators about her actions.

    “I made the choice to lie to them,” she said.

    However, Jones said that she didn’t realize that her punishment would be severe. She expected to perform community service or get put on probation.

    “You are never above the law,” Jones said.

    Despite spending six months in prison and 49 days in solidarity confinement, Jones said the experience helped her realize what is important in life.

    “I think sometimes we forget that even in our darkest, darkest days that God is still there for us,” she said.

    Jones opened the floor by speaking about the friction of her upbringing, having been raised by a single mother twice in her life after the departure of her biological father and the passing of her step-father.

    “I started to act out because of the pent up emotions,” Jones said.

    However, she began to find a passion for sports. By 16, she made the Olympics and, at 17, she accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina Chapel Hill.

    Everything in her world was going great on the outside, Jones said, but she was dealing with a lot of issues on the inside, including the absence of her father.

    “I didn’t get the chance to talk about it and to relieve it,” she said.

    She encouraged student athletes to link with positive role models and mentors to help. 

    “What’s the point of having a coach who is qualified and cares for and gives you sound advice and you don’t act on it?” Jones said.

    Being around individuals that she knew were not the best influence was one of the poor choices she made, she said.

    “I can’t stress enough of how important it is to hang around people who are making good decisions,” she said.

    Jones provided advice to the students about the importance of being cautious of their inner circle.

    “Once you hit the high level of success, you’re gonna get a lot of friends and find a lot of family you didn’t know you had,” she said. “Remember the people who got you where you are.”

    Regardless of the decisions you make in life, Jones said she wanted the students to understand there is still hope for overcoming.

    “There is still life if you make a poor choice,” she said. 

    Director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes Chauncey Franks said that he invited Jones to speak because of her athletic ability and perseverance, which comes from difficulties in her life.

    “I think her story relates well to the student athletes about the decisions and choices they are making,” Franks said. “She’s an American hero.”

    Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Saturday, May 3 at 5:13 p.m.