Commentary

Hunter was right -- Jones got big boost from steroids

Updated: October 5, 2007, 5:31 AM ET
By Mark Kreidler | Special to ESPN.com

This just in: It's the louts in a rout.

That's where things stand today, after all. It's bottom-feeders like Jose Canseco and C.J. Hunter for the win, with Vapid Victor Conte coming in as the closer. It's these despicable folks dispensing the truth, along with copious quantities of (insert performance-enhancer of choice here).

It's sort of like sports, only minus the soul. Enjoy, everybody!

Remember Canseco, baseball's modern clown prince? When the steroid-puffed daddy tried a few years ago to take down some of the sport's titans by implication in baseball's barely observed drug underworld, he was all but laughed out of America's living room as a money-grubbing slime peddler.

He may be all that. (In fact, especially considering his massive waste of talent and what could have been a memorable career, I'm leaning heavily toward Yes.) But he also turned out to be right -- in general, and in a striking number of the particulars.

Now Hunter wears the Canseco crown, such that it is. Hunter is the ex-husband of Marion Jones and the man who told investigators in the summer of 2004 that Jones was, indeed, the substance-using, edge-gaining opportunist that she had been portrayed as for so long by so many people within and around the universe of track and field.

Hunter told about Jones using "the clear," a Conte cocktail cooked up in the BALCO labs just south of San Francisco. He said that Jones used human growth hormone. He said that he had personally injected Jones with performance-enhancers before the Sydney Olympics of 2000. He said he watched Jones inject herself, at the Australia residence they shared during the Games. He implicated both Conte and Jones' coach, Trevor Graham, as being completely in on the doings from the get-go.

Jones's lawyers responded by labeling Hunter your garden-variety bitter ex-husband, a man who was, in the words of attorney Joseph Burton, "seeking to exact revenge by telling lies to the government." No immediate word from Joseph Burton on Thursday, when word of Jones's abrupt, about-face confession to using performance-enhancers beginning in 1999 first reached the nation via the Washington Post.

And you know what? As suspicious as Jones was for years as an athletic case, Hunter still didn't get much benefit of the doubt -- because his own case was demonstrably worse. He was a disgraced shot-putter who was thrown out of those Sydney Games on the basis of (as we were later told) not one positive drug test, but four positives. Hunter and his "nutritionist" promptly cranked the buffoonery level up a notch by suggesting his iron-supplement supply jar must have been tainted by the residue of some long-ago cheater and a stash of nandrolone. It was just a cartoon.

There was even a news conference to discuss all this. I stood there and watched it. Hundreds of reporters stood there, that day in Sydney. Jones hung around long enough to say she supported her husband, who had tears streaming down his unnaturally large cheeks. Off to one side, in a lime-green jacket, stood "family friend" Johnnie Cochran. Somewhat less obvious to the crowd, but in attendance all the same, was the above referenced "nutritionist," good old Victor Conte. Marion spoke a few words, then made a quick getaway to rest and prepare for her pursuit of five gold medals, of which she eventually won three.

IOC talking head Dick Pound said Thursday that those medals will be revoked, along with the two bronzes that Jones pulled down in Sydney. Far more remarkable as a development, though, is that the bad guys keep coming up with all the big truths.

Canseco was right. C.J. Hunter was right. Conte, who comes off in interviews and conversation as a man whose conscience one day simply drifted off into space -- even he has been right about an awful lot of this stuff. It was Conte who, during interviews in December 2004 with ESPN the Magazine and ABC's "20/20", basically took Marion Jones out, laying down a stream of accusations that prompted Jones to file a $25 million lawsuit and proclaim -- once again -- that she had never tested positive for anything. (In other news, neither have Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.)

Eventually, that lawsuit was settled out of court. Thursday, Marion Jones' words caused both Conte and C.J. Hunter essentially to stand up as the people who tried to let us know years ago what many people didn't want to believe -- and what Jones herself vigorously, continuously and very defiantly denied.

The best Jones could do in the wake of her pending guilty pleas in court was to ask friends and family to now believe that she didn't know what she was taking back then, that Graham told her to keep quiet about it. Sorry, but after seeing Jose Canseco eventually held forth as just about the only guy telling the truth in baseball's sorry drug spectacle, I think I'll go with Hunter and Conte this time. The sleaze gets all over my clothes, sure, but consider the alternatives.

Mark Kreidler's book "Four Days to Glory: Wrestling With the Soul of the American Heartland", has been optioned for film/TV development by ESPN Original Entertainment. His book "Kids of Summer," about the curious ability of one town to consistently produce Little League champions, will be released in July 2008. A regular contributor to ESPN.com, he can be reached at mark@markkreidler.com.