August 1, 2012

As I watch the London Olympics TV coverage nightly until 2:00 am, I can’t help but think about Marion Jones’ experience in the Sydney Olympics. It reminds me how important it is to surround ourselves with people who are not afraid to be candid.

I remember cheering for Jones during the 2000 Olympic track and field events, when she became the first woman to win 5 gold medals in a single Olympics. I thought to myself, “Wow, she is such an amazing athlete. I know she is inspiring women around the world!”

While hailed as  “the fastest woman on the planet”,  some believed Jones may have used performance-enhancing drugs leading up to her Olympic success. She admitted to the drug use and subsequently relinquished all 5 medals. She went to jail for 6 months for initially lying to federal prosecutors.

I kept thinking, “What went wrong? How did this happen? What made her decide to use drugs when she had so much going for her?”

Earlier this year, Piers Morgan of CNN spoke with Jones about her life before and after jail. He asked the same questions that had troubled me for so long.

She responded that she only surrounded herself with people who told her how great she was. As a result, she admitted that she pushed away the people who would challenge what she was doing.

She distanced herself from her mother, the only person she knew would give it to her straight. Jones was afraid of what her mother would say and therefore avoided any contact with her.

Have you ever been afraid to talk to someone you care about (and you know cares about you) because you were sure they wouldn’t agree with what you were doing? Did you ever avoid those you believe may challenge your thinking?

Jones now tells young people “when you get advice make sure it’s from people that will give it to you straight”. I hope so many of these outstanding athletes competing in London today have heard and heed Jones’ message.