OCTOBER 5, 2007
In my career I've been lucky to have had the chance to paint the portraits of many interesting people. Some are sinister and some heroic. With all of them, I get to learn a bit about who they are and really feel a connection to them forever. For the more heroic faces, I feel a twinge of pain when their lives go astray. Such is the case with Marion Jones. I painted her in July 2000 prior to her dominant 2000 Sydney Olympics. An amazing athlete, she became the first female track and field athlete to win five medals at a single Olympics, in Sydney - gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x400m relay, and bronze in the long jump and 4x100 relay AND she was a terrific basketball player. She averaged 22.8 points per game as a high school senior and was named California Division I Player of the Year. As a point guard, she helped North Carolina to the NCAA title in her first year of college ball. Her first husband , shot putter C.J. Hunter was banned from the 2002 olympics for using steroids. Her boyfriend after C.J was Tim Montgomery, who was also a sprinter and held the World Record for the 100 meters. He was banned from the sport (and his record rescinded) after admitting to the use of performance enhancing drugs. Marion Jones was connected to the Balco Case with many other athletes, Barry Bonds included, yet maintained until yesterday that she NEVER used performance-enhancing steroids. In almost all these cases the athletes were paying high sums of money for a product called 'the clear' which essentially promised to provide an undetectable steroid for these athletes. Soon, a test was developed to detect the drug and the unraveling began. Back to Marion Jones. Her unbridled joy evident in that beaming smile is so heartwarming. Marion was an athlete who loves her sport and won because she's just that good. The amazing temptation athletes feel to improve their performance is powerful enough to have them cut corners. With Balco, I'm sure they all thought they were going to get away with it. Finally, this makes me even more upset with Barry Bonds for some reason. He got to tip his cap and take his bows after breaking Hank Aaron's home run record. Whether he gets into the hall of fame or not is a topic worth discussion, but Marion Jones, who graced the covers of Vogue, Time and Newsweek is expected to face jail time and the potential loss of those Olympic medals and winnings. This fate should hit all Balco athletes.
This was assigned by Ken Smith at Time in July 2000. I got one night to do it. I rushed out to buy a book on Marion Jones to learn a bit about her and read it during breaks from drawing and painting her. The concept: she was about to assume her likely position as queen of the Olympics.