Here's What Happened To Olympic Track Star Marion Jones

In the early 2000s, no one dominated competitive running more than Marion Jones. The Los Angeles-born athlete swept the 2000 Olympic Games, breaking records to become the first woman ever to win five medals in the track-and-field category during the competition, according to Britannica. Jones could do no wrong, sprinting her way to victory to become not just a superstar runner, but an American icon. She should have been set for life, but what followed was something nobody saw coming. 

Doping allegations, a strong denial, a highly publicized court case, and a subsequent prison term saw Jones spectacularly fall from grace in an Olympic medalist's worst nightmare. Her journey from stellar track prima donna to disgraced criminal was one of the biggest events in sporting history at the time. After her legal troubles, Jones gradually faded into obscurity, but what exactly led her to such a broken dream, and all these years later, where is she now? 

Everyone knows that the court of public opinion isn't easily overcome, and coming back from such a betrayal of trust isn't easy, even after time has passed. Despite this, Jones has found herself carving out a life that is perhaps not as she imagined it but still allows her to put on her running shoes and be there at the front line — albeit from a distance. Let's take a look at the seminal rise and fall of Jones, a former role model turned disgraced sporting outcast. 

Marion Jones was at the top of her game – then it all came crashing down

2000 was arguably the best year of Marion Jones' career. Though her sights had been set on the Olympics since her rise to prominence as a high school sporting sensation in the '90s, she had to wait for her shot until the new millennium — but it was worth the wait. Her buzzworthy performance at the Sydney Olympics won her five medals, according to the Olympics website; golds in the 100-, 200-, and 4x400-meter relays, and bronzes for the long jump and 4x100-meter relay. For any athlete, that is a good day at the office, but what should have been the start of something wonderful became Jones' worst nightmare. 

Rumors first started swirling about possible doping when Jones' husband at the time, fellow athlete C.J. Hunter, tested positive for steroids at the Sydney Olympics. Jones denied any wrongdoing vehemently. The next few years that followed became a messy entanglement of public denials and even a threat from Jones to sue if she was barred from competing in the next Olympics. 

In a saga that seemed never-ending, Jones even used her 2004 autobiography, "Marion Jones: Life in the Fast Lane" to print a message on a singular page in bold red letters that read (via The Guardian): "I have always been unequivocal in my opinion: I am against performance-enhancing drugs. I have never taken them and I never will take them." If only that were true ...

Her lies led to a prison sentence

When allegations as serious as these surface, it can be tricky waters to navigate because there is so much at stake. Marion Jones opted to double down on her denial incredibly hard, which made it all the worse when she eventually confessed that she had hoodwinked federal investigators by staunchly refusing to admit she had ever used drugs to enhance her performance. In a shocking twist, Jones came clean in the fall of 2007, telling them that she hadn't just used the steroids once, but "several times before the Sydney Olympics and continued using it after," according to The Guardian

Despite this incredible turn of events, Jones pleaded with the judge to be lenient with her because she was a mom with two young children. She may have dearly hoped that she would never spend time behind bars, but despite her appeal and that of her lawyer, Jones was sentenced to six months in jail. Perhaps even more devastating for Jones was that the International Association of Athletics Federations banned her from competing, and anything she won both during and after the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games was revoked. 

The entire drama spanned almost a decade, teaching onlookers both inside and out of the sporting world a valuable lesson: The truth always comes to light, no matter how much you lie and try to cover it up. By 2008, Jones was an ex-con, but her life in the sporting world wasn't over yet. 

Marion Jones left sprinting and turned to basketball

With sprinting firmly behind Marion Jones and her reputation in tatters, many didn't think a comeback was possible for her. After all, she wasn't allowed to compete in the sport she loved the most, and any hopes of an Olympic comeback were fully dashed. However, Jones had something else working in her favor. She wasn't just a sprinter but an avid athlete with plenty of experience under her belt. While she was banned from one sport, she wasn't banned from them all. After completing her jail term, Jones joined the Women's National Basketball Association's Tulsa Shock team in 2010. Jones, pictured above playing basketball in her college days, wasn't a complete novice to the sport. 

At the time, the president of the team, Steve Swetoha, and Jones' coach, Nolan Richardson, supported her at a press conference, according to The Guardian. She detailed her desire to get back out there, explaining, "The word redemption is not in my vocabulary. I'm a competitor, I want to play against the best in the world, and I know I will be doing that." 

That any sports team would willingly affiliate itself with Jones may have surprised some given her less than stellar history, but the team thought taking a chance on her would be worth it. It seemed as though the LA native was getting another shot at an industry that she loved, but would it last?

By 2012, she was out of basketball and on TV

Although joining a basketball team was a positive step for Marion Jones, it didn't prove to be a permanent transition. In 2011, news broke that she had been cut from the team due to a disastrous performance in her second season. According to ESPN, the former track star averaged less than a point per game in her 14 on-court appearances, a "league worst." It's hardly surprising given these results that Jones' career with the Tulsa Shock ended up short-lived. 

Despite getting axed, Jones maintained a positive attitude and thanked the team for allowing her to "demonstrate to people, especially our youth, that if you have faith, life is full of second chances." Jones followed up this sweet sentiment by voicing her desire to continue to play on another team, though that dream didn't come true. 

She faded from view until 2012, when she was the focus of an episode of TV One's "Life After" docuseries. Upon the show's release, she spoke to ESPN about her current position, explaining that while she considered going back to basketball, she realized there were more important things in life for her to focus on at the time, like her family. "I'm not at a low point," she expressed. "I'm excited where I am at now. I'm at a good point in my life."

She's still a fitness fanatic


In the 2000s, it seemed like Marion Jones was never far from the headlines, with her legal troubles taking up most of the decade. Though it may have appeared that Jones sealed her fate and discarded any chance at a "normal" life when she was in the eye of the media storm, the past decade has proved fruitful for the former Olympian. She has steered clear of mainstream media and kept a low profile, though she does have something of an online presence, posting on Instagram and TikTok where she has around 10,000 followers apiece. 

While Jones hasn't fully saturated her profiles with tons of posts, it's clear that she's still an avid fitness fanatic. After all, she has always been a massive sports fan, hailing right back to her academic years. Now, her Instagram profile reads, "A Mom! Fitness fanatic and trainer! Entrepreneur! Minimalist! Tar Heel for Life!" Nearly all of her Instagram posts are sports related and show Jones sharing working out at the track, doing reps in a gym, and more.

We all know that Jones' career didn't work out as planned, but if her current hustle has shown us anything, it's that her athletic life was more than just a job to her. Jones is passionate about sports and fitness — perhaps it's kept her going through the tough times she's faced and helped her find better days.  

Marion Jones uses her voice to encourage people to exercise their rights

If social media had existed when Marion Jones was at the peak of her career in the early aughts, she would have had millions of followers and a much larger platform for using her voice. Just look at gymnast Simone Biles, who boasts 7.1 million followers on Instagram alone. While Jones has just a small following now, she hasn't let it deter her from using her position to encourage others to exercise their right to vote. 

Back in 2020, Jones posted a video to her TikTok and Instagram profiles with the text, "Make your voice count! Go vote! Exercise your rights!" She didn't encourage her followers to vote one way or another and didn't make her affiliations known, but it was largely well received. The caption also read, "Go vote! You want change? It starts with you!" Jones hasn't made a habit of voicing her political stance since, but perhaps she will when the next presidential election rears its head. 

As celebrities well know, politics can be a treacherous thing to speak up about (even between partners), but it speaks volumes about Jones' character that she would at least encourage others to use their power. Some decide to avoid it altogether, and sometimes, silence is just as deadly. Even so, it's difficult not to imagine just how much sway Jones could have had if her life hadn't taken the path it did all those years ago.

She speaks out about women's empowerment


Marion Jones' resume is extensive. Not only was she an Olympian, a basketball player, and a TV star, but she is also a fitness trainer. In November 2023, she also added conference speaker to the list when she made an appearance at a FIERCE Now event in Texas. According to the FIERCE Now Instagram, FIERCE stands for Females in Every Role Change Everything and it "exists to educate, energize, and embrace all women so they are more confident and empowered." This undeniably worthy cause certainly embraced Jones when she took to the stage. 

In an Instagram clip Jones shared from the Austin-based conference, she tells the audience that she hopes they leave understanding that it's "okay to be uncomfortable" and that everyone should be in the "midst of transition." One commenter, @kristan_cab said, "It was such an honor to see you speak today! Thank you so much for your words." 

Whether Jones had ever spoken at a conference before this one is unclear, but judging by the social media response, it's something she should do again. After all, how many females have been through what she has been through and come out the other side? Jones has many a worthy story to tell — and she could spin a cautionary tale or three while she's at it. 

Marion Jones is a proud sports mom


Amazingly, throughout the highest highs and lowest lows of her career, Marion Jones has always been busy with one monumental thing: motherhood. By the time things really hit the fan in the late 2000s, Jones had two children and now has three in total: Monty, Amir, and Eva-Marie. Perhaps inspired by his mom's love of sports, Amir is a keen basketball player, if Jones' social media posts are anything to go by. Jones frequently shares courtside videos of her son's team, including one posted on Instagram back in October 2023 with the caption, "First game of the day for #13 class of 2024 @theamirthompson. Gonna be a special season!"

In another Instagram post (from December 2023), Jones shared another video, this time saying that although she's tired, she wouldn't have changed it for anything, with the hashtags #classof2024 and #classof2027. It seems like life has come full circle for the athlete, who is now watching her kids follow in her footsteps and become bona fide sports stars. They may have some way to go, but at least they can always turn to their mom for advice if they need it. 

Jones is more than qualified to help out on the athletic front, and because it's something she genuinely loves, it likely won't ever seem like a chore to her. Cheering on from the sidelines may not have been something Jones ever envisioned, but she's doing an incredible job of it.