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Athletics: Cheats and liars cast cloud over Bolt's new 100m record

POOR Usain Bolt. He produced the most lip-smacking, jaw-dropping, mind-numbing sprint in history in New York on Saturday night but is the victim of a timeline of cheats and liars.

The Jamaican giant's 100m world record was remarkable in that he is a rookie and reluctant hero who has dragged his heels in embracing the event just as markedly as he has moved them during it.

But where his stunning time of 9.72 seconds would once have been the stuff of legend, it is now tainted by the discredit heaped on the event by his predecessors.

You can only pity Bolt because his story is a sporting romance. He is a 200m specialist whose 6'5" frame was felt to be too large for the shorter sprint. In addition, he previewed the Reebok Grand Prix at the Icahn Stadium by bemoaning his slow start and refusing to commit to the event for the Beijing Olympic Games this summer.

Then he clipped two-hundredths off Asafa Powell's record, defying a track moistened by thunderstorms and blowing away Tyson Gay, the world 100m and 200m champion, in the process.

"I'm definitely doubling up now," Bolt said of his revised Olympic itinerary.

His rise justifies every "Bolt from the blue" headline because this was only his fifth race at 100m. His plan had been to do the distance to improve his speed for the 200m, in which he was runner-up to Gay at last year's World Championships in Osaka, Japan. Glen Mills, his coach, believes that he could also dip below 44 seconds for the 400m and said: "He's never going to be a fast starter at that height. You just want to be still in the race at 30m."

The pair have clashed over what they perceive to be Bolt's best event, but Mills said last week that it would be foolhardy to ditch years of mental and physical preparation for the 200m on the back of a mad May that began with him running 9.76 for the 100m in Jamaica.

In days gone by the 21-year-old would be box office, but the 100m has long been dying from a thousand self-inflicted cuts. The drugs scandals that have given athletics a credibility problem have centred on the event. Marion Jones, the sprint sensation of the 2000 Olympics, is in jail for lying about her drug-taking. Trevor Graham, her former coach, awaits sentencing after being found guilty on one of three counts in his perjury trial.


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Justin Gatlin, the Olympic champion, will find out on Friday whether the Court of Arbitration for Sport will allow him a route back to a title defence in Beijing, thus enabling him to serve an eight-year ban in two years.

Meanwhile, Dwain Chambers will run in Greece on Wednesday as he hopes to restart an athletics career that has involved "the full enchilada" of drugs and may yet end up in the High Court this summer.

It is a messy, murky past that has turned thousands off the sport. Three of the past five Olympic 100m champions have tested positive for drugs and two of the past four world record holders have been tainted.

Bolt has never failed a drugs test. He has had six this year, including the one on Saturday that will need to be negative for the world record to be ratified. When people suggest that cheats should be given a second chance, they need only look at how Bolt's achievement has been undermined by unfounded suspicion to understand why a hard line is needed.

Having run 19.75 seconds to beat Don Quarrie's Jamaican record for the 200m last year, Bolt has now shaken up the 100m as well. The eagerly awaited duel between Powell, his compatriot, and Gay is now a three-horse race.

The irony is that, at a time when the event's reputation has never been so low, the protagonists are producing the most electrifying battle in history. (© The Times, London)

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