MARION JONES'S past caught up with her on Oct. 5, the day she pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about her use of performance-enhancing drugs and her knowledge of a check fraud scheme involving her ex-boyfriend, Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery. This Friday, Jones will be sentenced for those crimes. On New Year's Eve, her lawyers filed papers asking federal judge Kenneth Karas for probation, citing her responsibilities as a mother of two and the scorn she has endured. "She has suffered enormous personal shame, anguish and embarrassment," the lawyers wrote to the judge. "She has lost her livelihood. She has been ruined financially. She has lost her reputation." Indeed, few athletes have fallen further.
The former Olympic gold medalist, who earned millions in prize money and endorsements, appears to be all but broke. In 2005 she sued former coach Dan Pfaff for breach of contract; Pfaff countersued and won $240,000 in unpaid training and legal expenses. In November of last year the IAAF ruled that she must repay $700,000 she won since September 2000. Last year a bank foreclosed on her $2.5 million mansion in Chapel Hill, N.C.; Jones has sold two other homes in North Carolina, including one where her mother, Marion Toler, lived. Jones now lives with her husband, Obadele Thompson, a sprinter from Barbados, and her children (Monty, 4, whose father is Montgomery; and a son born to Jones and Thompson in July) in a two-bedroom home in Austin valued at $211,622. "Marion is living modestly," F. Hill Allen, one of her lawyers, told SI. "Her time is spent as a mother of two young boys and as a wife."
Jones has few friends left in track circles. In October she returned the five medals she won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and the IOC may strip eight teammates who won medals with Jones in relays. "Marion made a wrong choice that others are being punished for," says LaTasha Colander-Clark, a gold medalist with Jones in the 4√ó400-meter relay. "Why should good people have to answer for someone else's bad decision?"
This week Jones will learn her punishment. Prosecutors in White Plains, N.Y., have recommended prison time of up to six months. Last Thursday, though, Judge Karas served notice that she could receive two such sentences for her separate counts of lying. For Jones the news only gets worse.