Posted August 10, 2012

Usain Bolt takes a shot at Carl Lewis

In his press conference following his win in the 200 meters, Usain Bolt made no attempt to hide his disdain for Carl Lewis, the gold standard among Olympic track athletes with nine gold medals.

Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press has Bolt’s full comments:

“I’m going to say something controversial right now: Carl Lewis, I have no respect for him. 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. So he’s looking for attention. 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 why he had such strong feelings toward Lewis, Bolt brought up Lewis’ suspicions about doping:

“It was all about drugs,” said Bolt. “Talking about drugs. For me, an athlete to be 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.”

As far back as 2008, in an interview with London’s Daily Telegraph, Lewis said, among other things:

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

After Bolt’s win in the 100 meters on Sunday, Lewis appeared to knock Bolt again, suggesting on international TV that Bolt had some work to do before he could be considered a true legend.


Well, no one has heard of any failed drug tests among the Jamaicans during and since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so as much as I love and respect Carl Lewis, his comments have no merit. 


Bolt's comment is justified, although overly broad.  Lewis was a great champion himself, and his recent comments don't change that. 


It's obvious that the IOC cannot rely on individual countries, as opposed to itself, to be in charge of effective drug screening.  That's like putting banking regulation in the hands of the banks.  No one would propose that. 


Lewis should direct his concerns constructively, and not so publicly, to the policies and procedures of the IOC in doing what should be its job.   It is bad form to comment publicly about Jamaica's drug screening program and Jamaica's sprinters.  This point applies to separate suspicions raised about Ye Shiwen as well. 


There is zero evidence as of today to support Lewis's accusation.   Personally, I doubt that the Jamaicans have more knowledge about performance enhancement and masking agents than can be found right here in the U.S.A.  Jamaica has a handful of sprinters, while the U.S. has MLB, the NFL, the NBA, and more.  


The Olympics produce a handful of stunning records and performances.  Some of them are by Americans:  Bob Beamon, Michael Johnson, Michael Phelps.  Others are not.  Without those kinds of performances,  who would really care much about the Olympics?  Americans and Europeans have professional sports in abundance to absorb their appetite for excellence in athletics.  To question the integrity of every extraordinary Olympics performance is to devalue precisely what makes the Olympics great.