Sport Athletics Usain Bolt a victim of athletics’ dirty past

Usain Bolt a victim of athletics’ dirty past

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There is a raw beauty in watching animals, even human ones, sprint.

From a dog chasing a ball full-tilt, to a cheetah mowing down a gazelle – there is something thrilling about it.

Watching Usain Bolt run has entered the realm of the most electrifying experiences in sport.

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It’s on a par with watching Lionel Messi torment a defence, or an early Mike Tyson fight.

Like the latter, you know it’ll be fast.

Bolt running the 200m at the 2007 World Championships. Photo: Getty
Bolt running the 200m at the 2007 World Championships. Photo: Getty

Bolt has been the best sprinter in the world for eight years.

He is the first man to win the 100m and 200m double at two successive Olympic Games, and he’s also achieved that feat at World Championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

He stands a good chance of repeating that double in Rio next year.

His achievements are unparalleled.

And yet one can’t help but watch his casual rewriting of history with a sceptical eye.

Post Ben Johnson, post Marion Jones, post Tyson Gay, post Asafa Powell, post Sherone Simpson – that’s just the way it is.

It’s a sad indictment on the times in which we live that I’m waiting to wake up to the headlines ‘Bolt tests positive’ or ‘Bolt drug shock’.

Surely not. He’s so engaging, so personable.

He likes cricket.

Well, I’ve been duped before.

I was a sucker for the Lance Armstrong fairytale. The title of his first book, the Tolkien-esque It’s Not About The Bike, was so apt.

It was about the EPO and the testosterone, the shady doctors and the intimidation of anyone who didn’t stay quiet.

Bolt after winning gold in London, 2012. Photo: Getty
Bolt after winning gold in London, 2012. Photo: Getty

There’s no suggestion of cheating by the Jamaican. But thanks to the actions of his colleagues, Bolt’s performances have been under the microscope for some time.

Back in 2008, Carl Lewis – himself a part of The Dirtiest Race in History – said to take the Jamaican’s rapid leap forward in 2007 on face value was naive.

“When people ask me about Bolt, I say he could be the greatest athlete of all-time,” Lewis said.

“But for someone to run 10.03 one year and 9.69 the next, if you don’t question that in a sport that has the reputation it has right now, you’re a fool. Period.”

In Bolt’s favour, a lot of time has passed between then and now – and there has been no positive test.

Bolt, of course, insists his performances are honest.

“I do my best, I just try to run fast and I do it clean,” he said in July.

“I really am not going to say I’m the only saviour of athletics.

“Hopefully up and coming athletes can learn that I did it clean throughout the years and it’s all about hard work and dedication.”

Bolt may not view himself as the saviour of athletics – but he is the sport’s best and brightest star.

He makes the sport compulsive viewing, and it was wonderful to watch his performances in the Bird’s Nest stadium over the past week.

Yet, in 2015, the doubt creeps in like rising damp, and is about as hard to get rid of.

For the sake of athletics, and our faith in sport, let’s hope Usain Bolt remains a world beater who has been assisted only by his physical gifts.


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