Nothing like a good generational feud to get a day started as it appears as though Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt have lost whatever tolerance they had for one another. Lewis came up with some controversial remarks directed at the Jamaican sprinting program and this has not been met kindly by the fastest human being ever named after a weather phenomenon.
What did Lewis say, you ask? Way ahead of you.
“Countries like Jamaica do not have a random program, so they can go months without being tested. I’m not saying anyone is on anything, but everyone needs to be on a level playing field.”
The implication there is pretty clear despite Lewis’ cover. Lewis who, in the interest of context, has been hyping up the US like nobody’s business, is suggesting that Jamaica’s program slants the competitive balance in their favour and the Usain Bolts and Yohan Blakes of the world are allowed to dope like crazy, shatter records and get the drugs out of their system for the Olympics.
“I’m going to say something controversial right now. Carl Lewis, I have no respect for him,” Bolt said. “The things he says about the track athletes is really downgrading for another athlete to say something like that. I think he’s just looking for attention, really, because nobody really talks much about him.
“That was really sad for me when I heard the other day what he was saying. It was upsetting. I’ve lost all respect for him. All respect.”
Asked which specific comments from Lewis made him angry, Bolt replied: “It was all about drugs. Talking about drugs. For me, an athlete out of the sport to be saying that. That was really upsetting for me. Really upsetting.
“To jump up and say something like that. As far as I’m concerned he’s looking for attention. That’s all.”
To quote Denzel Washington in Training Day, “Boom.”
Now there are many ways to look at this. One way to look at this is Lewis could very well be pointing out an unfair advantage to Jamaica. The other way is that he’s a bitter old codger who’s trying to create a fuss for the benefit of his own country because he can’t stand someone looming large over his legacy.
I’m leaning towards the latter.
The irony dripping from Carl Lewis accusing a program of manipulating doping rules, of course, is that he tested positive three times before the 1988 games where Lewis captured three gold medals, the most notable of which was the 100m sprint after Canadian Ben Johnson — you may know the name — tested positive in Seoul, easily the most PED ridden games in history. Why was Lewis allowed to compete, let alone allowed to keep his medal? The US Olympic Committee overturned his positive tests. Three times.
Pot, meet kettle.
The fact of the matter is that Usain Bolt has never tested positive for anything in his career, and we can’t assume that he will. Presuming PED use because of strong performances is a dangerous path as any avid baseball fan will tell you.
In the interest of fairness, it should be noted that Yohan Blake was suspended for three months in 2009 for stimulant use despite the fact that the stimulant was not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list. The suspensions came domestically because of the stimulant’s similarity in structure to one that is banned.
Again, this is Jamaica reprimanding its own people because of a tie they recognized, not an outside committee enforcing steadfast rules on a substance.
The sniping from Carl Lewis underscores the ridiculousness of our skepticism towards success. We ought to be skeptical of the Jamaican sprint program because of allegations that they don’t enforce doping regulations on their own people. Nonsense. Jamaica has no clear record of manipulating drug testing or allowing people to skip out or allowing those who have tested positive to compete. The United States on the other hand…
As if the sketchy legacy of Lewis wasn’t enough, perhaps we ought to invoke the Marion Jones saga, or Justin Gatlin who made his return to the Olympics this year after an eight year ban in 2007 which was reduced to four years. Now we’re learning of ties between sprinter Carmelita Jeter and hurdler Jason Richardson to Mark Block, a man linked to BALCO serving a ten year ban from track and field. Perhaps we ought to turn our attention to Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin? If the sprinting program can hide doping surely the swimming program can too.
The arc in narrative is the problem with this type of speculation. By picking out which exceptional performers we want to accuse of doping, we enter a vicious cycle of picking an choosing who we want to question. Bolt and Blake are being questioned by Lewis, but why not Jeter and Richardson? It’s an endless game of he said, she said.
Sure, you can question Bolt after he takes a shot at Carl Lewis who is, like it or not, an Olympic legend. The question after that should be how you view the guy with a history of cheating who accuses others of cheating. You could do worse than telling Carl Lewis to keep his mouth shout. Carry on, Usain.
Until they give us a reason to be skeptical, there’s no reason to think Jamaica is dirty. Just sit back and enjoy the run.