Tuesday 19 November 2019

Stars with gripes protest too much

Eamonn Sweeney

Eamonn Sweeney

The campaign of whinging and innuendo by the Americans against the Jamaican sprinters, who kicked their ass once more at the Olympics, is astounding to behold. And the most astounding thing of all is that it's being led by Carl Lewis who suggested more than once that Jamaica's success may be due to the fact that the country's drug-testing regime isn't as strict as that of other countries.

Carl Lewis. That name rings a bell. Would this be the Carl Lewis who tested positive for prohibited substances on three occasions in 1988? The American authorities decided to keep the results of the tests secret and allowed him to compete in the Olympics of that year where he won gold in the 100m, after Ben Johnson was disqualified for drug use, and long jump as well as silver in the 200m. Four years later, he won gold on a US 4x100m relay team which included Dennis Mitchell, later banned after a doping offence.

When, 15 years later, the story of his positive test leaked out, Lewis argued, "there were hundreds of people getting off. Everyone was treated the same." Everyone in the US perhaps. Because between 1988 and 2000, the United States Olympic Committee covered up a total of 114 tests. The East Germans could hardly have done better. Yet Lewis still feels entitled to question the bona fides of Usain Bolt and his team-mates and petty-minded US journalists go along with the charade as though their own country has spotless hands in this matter.

Is it any wonder that the normally mild-mannered Bolt last week declared, "Carl Lewis, I have no respect for him . . . I think he's just looking for attention, really, because nobody really talks that much about him. That was really sad for me when I heard the other day what he was saying. I've lost all respect for him. All respect."

It's hard to blame Bolt for taking this attitude. But the attitude of the American media is hard to understand given that their track team included athletes like Justin Gatlin, eventual bronze medal winner in the 100m, and LaShawn Merritt, favourite for the 400m, who have already served suspensions for doping, as well as another runner who looks like a positive drugs test waiting to happen.

Given that the BALCO scandal revealed the US as a country where drug use among sportsmen and sportswomen is endemic, perhaps the Yanks should worry about the mote in their eye before they tackle a possible speck in the Jamaicans'.

And perhaps Carl Lewis should ease up on the sour grapes and thank his lucky stars that there isn't an asterisk beside his name in the Olympic record book.

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