Jones isn't going to go away quietly

Updated: July 18, 2004, 10:06 PM ET
By Mark Kreidler | Special to ESPN.com

Here's official proof that the Nobody Knows Anything Club is alive and fully functional: Marion Jones, given up for dead as an Olympic participant three days ago, now stands at least an outside chance of being placed on the U.S. team in both of the events she's attempted so far in Sacramento.

Marion Jones
Marion Jones salutes the crowd in Sacramento after leaping 23-4 in the long jump trials final.

The long jump? That became a don't-even-ask-about-it proposition on Jones' second attempt Thursday evening, when the five-medal winner from Sydney delivered a leap of 23 feet, 4 inches -- her longest since 1998 and the best non-altitude jump in the world this year -- to bury the field at the Olympic trials.

And the 100 meters? Don't laugh. Despite Jones' fifth-place finish last weekend, it could happen.

The woman who ran second in the 100 last weekend, Torri Edwards, acknowledged Thursday that she tested positive for a banned stimulant earlier this summer. She plans an appeal before an arbitrator, but it's possible that Edwards will be stripped of her finish and barred from the Olympic team.

Here it gets interesting. Jones, as noted, ran fifth (in an uninspired 11.14 seconds) in that 100 final. The woman who finished ahead of her in fourth, and thus would be the first in line to replace Edwards if it came to that, is Gail Devers.

The one glaring omission from Devers' glittering résumé is an Olympic gold medal in the 100 -- the 100 hurdles, that is, for which she qualified with a win on Sunday. It is possible that if offered the 100-meter spot, she might decline in order to concentrate on the hurdles.

In other words, it suddenly is at least conceivable that Jones' fifth-place running in the 100 will net her a spot on the team in Athens. She's already got the long jump sewn up -- and if she jumps like this in Greece, she may well contend for a gold medal.

Jones was completely in control of the long jump. She led after her first attempt and landed all six of her jumps legally. She cleared at least 22 feet on every try. It was, for all intents, a Marion Jones performance from 2000 or before.

She beat runner-up Grace Upshaw by nearly a foot, and Upshaw needed a personal best of 22-5 on her final jump just to ensure that. It was an utterly commanding performance the likes of which Jones hasn't delivered in eons. And it raised the bar of what may be possible for her in Athens.

Provided, of course, she ever gets there.

Jones remains one of USA Track and Field's huge athlete issues -- and that presumes that a case will finally be formally presented against her as a result of the BALCO doping scandal in which she has been questioned and brought before a grand jury.

The Sacramento meet has been a graveyard for BALCO- and other drug-implicated athletes. Calvin Harrison finished fifth in the 400-meter final, leaving him as just a provisional choice for a 4x400 relay team composite. Regina Jacobs, scheduled to run in the women's 1,500 this weekend, abruptly retired. They joined a host of scandal-tainted athletes -- Michelle Collins, Alvin Harrison, Tim Montgomery -- who already have made exits from the trials, and one, Chryste Gaines, who failed in the 100 and will run the 200 in the coming days.

Heading into the trials, one of USATF's overarching concerns was that it might field an Olympic team peopled, in part, by athletes with pending drug cases, who would go to Athens, compete, and then later have their results washed out if their cases were resolved and they were found to be complicit in the drug use.

A dirty team, in other words. And considering the ways in which the U.S. Olympic movement is being pummeled internationally just now, it's the worst idea on wheels. The Americans already find themselves mistrusted on the issue of performance enhancement; sending a team with athletes already under formal investigation would exacerbate the problem.

Jones, though, isn't going to go away so quietly. Hers may well be the case that goes down to the Athens wire, or even beyond. And if anyone connected with track thought the woman might simply underperform enough to keep herself off the team, it was settled Thursday in Sacramento.

Marion Jones isn't done yet. She declined again to speak to reporters Thursday night, sending word through an official that she might do so after the 200. In other words, she's still competing -- and still a going concern.

Mark Kreidler is a columnist with the Sacramento Bee and a regular contributor to ESPN.com