Wednesday 22 May 2019

Drug-enhanced athletes turning

Sean Diffley

WHEN the curtain comes down on the 2012 London Games the huge Olympic stadium will not be used for athletics anymore. The 80,000-plus edifice will be far too large for track and field and will probably end up as a football ground.

All of which is an indication that athletics no longer commands the gatherings of old, the 80,000 which once filled the White City and tickets for the August bank holiday weekend meetings used to be as scarce as golddust.

Around the time that Billy Morton was filling Lansdowne Road for his three-day promotion.

Nowadays British Athletics is easily catered for at the 25,000 capacity Crystal Palace and Santry Stadium can look a lonesome place even on the biggest Irish athletics day. Of course television coverage has had its effect but there is no doubting the reason for the dwindling crowds is the modern presence of the cult of drug-enhanced performances.

Remember the old tale of the man who explained his reason for perambulating in the dark with a lamp was to find an honest man. And, perhaps, woman.

A similar journey among today's top sprinters would, it seems, be just as difficult to unearth an undrugged one.

Not that any of them ever admit taking illegal smarties. Somebody else has spiked their drinks. Or massaged them with the wrong stuff. Sure, doesn't it happen in every walk of life. Remember the furious W. C. Fields: "What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch."

The claims in every direction, and not just in sport, are getting more and more bizarre. You'll have read, for instance, about the lady who is writing a book about her ancestors Mary Magdelene and Jesus Christ.

Doped sprinters didn't start with Ben Johnson in Seoul in 1988 but Johnson and his coaches and medical advisers were all dropped on their heads when they were babies.

Johnson was so obviously guilty that long before he was banned he was known around the athletics tracks as Benoid.

And the saintly Carl Lewis, who gained the gold instead when Johnson was disqualified, was later found to be a bit of a druggie himself. And, of course, Linford Christie, now even discarded as a pundit by the BBC, was silver medallist in Seoul.

So we walk about, flashing our lamp and seeking an honest sprinter. There are honest ones but the public are so suspicious of good performances, gold medallists and world record breakers that the sport is discredited. So they don't need big stadia.

The crowds are staying away - and they probably wont bother following cycling either.

In the USA, baseball players are breaking all sorts of records and many of the most famous have been caught on steroids.

I think I'll take up croquet, or lawn bowling.

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