The games of the 30th Olympiad are drawing to a close. It’s safe to say these games have been a parade of legendary performances, from Michael Phelps of the USA to Usain Bolt of Jamaica; we have seen youngsters such as Warren Weir defy all odds and earn medals, while we’ve witnessed spectacular feats of human endurance from women like Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce. After gold in the Women’s 100m, Men’s 100m, a World Record in the Men 4×1, Gold, Silver and Bronze in the Men’s 200m and a Silver in the Women’s 200m – it is entirely appropriate to question whether Jamaican athletes are on drugs. Entirely. Yes, I said it, but you were thinking it. I believe it is dangerous to take an absolute posture and say our athletes are drug free, I maintain it’s possible.
Carl Lewis has taken a lot of crap for declaring that Jamaican athletes are on drugs and I doubt anyone has ever stopped to really think about it. Lewis is from a generation where American dominance was the accepted norm in sprinting. I’m sure most people around the world didn’t bank on a 9.58 posting in the men’s 100m or bank on a country, Jamaica at that, making a clean sweep of a single event. Mind you, most of Lewis’ comments are probably genuinely motivated by the United States sense of entitlement in everything, but outside of his arrogance, there is a legitimate question which stands. It IS unbelievable, it DOES defy expectations and that’s what leaves the doubt, it leaves a nagging question -what if? Now, of course as Jamaicans we want to believe it is impossible that they’re on drugs – it obviously bodes well for our national dialogue and fits beautifully into our nation’s story to say we unilaterally and naturally produced the fastest sprinters in the world, especially in a year where we celebrate our 50th anniversary. The athletes have given us something to celebrate, and singular cause believe in; Half Way Tree stands as testament to that fact. Still, we cannot deny that there is a real possibility that something is not right and I think it speaks to a certain arrogance if we decided to rule it out. I’m not prepared to do that.
What’s more, some of the most celebrated names in sprinting have been proven as frauds. I think it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many, and we have to face that truth. You’ll recall in 1988 the Jamaican born – Canadian sprinter, Ben Johnson, ‘stole’ Carl Lewis’ world record at the Seoul games. He clocked 9.79 at the time, and was later found guilty of doping. I can understand Carl Lewis’ anxiety – as we Jamaicans would say “a feelings him a carry”. Can you blame him though? A Jamaican stole his glory 24 years ago, and he now has to watch as another Jamaican, of almost superhuman speed, leave his countrymen behind in the dust. I’d be pissed too. The man has good reason to be anxious, good reason to be angry. Coupled with Ben Johnson, we’ve seen doping from the likes of Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Jamaica’s very own Steve Mullings. Some amount of scepticism is inevitable, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I think we’ve gotten to a place in sport where the misdeeds of a few leaves a cloud hanging over those who have genuinely excelled, that’s just the reality. The young swimmer, Ye Shiwen, of China has faced the same scrutiny for her accomplishments in the pool at these games, Michael Phelps had to fend off such speculation, why do we as Jamaicans become so defensive when the logical question is asked of our athletes?
I decided to ask a track and field coach* to help me track our athletes, did they suddenly sprint forward? Or was it a gradual progression to greatness? Here’s what he said :
1. Q : Would you say it (the Men’s 100 record) was a sudden drop? As in, did Jamaicans just drag it down?
A : The 100 got more competitive. Back in the day, if one guy ran 9.8, he was probably one of 2 guys in the world who could. Nowadays, there are 3 or 4 guys who have a chance of running blistering times. It wasn’t necessarily the Jamaicans who caused the times to get faster and the records to fall. It was the event getting more competitive.
2. Q : So you would genuinely chalk up Bolt’s success to talent?
A : I would. I saw him run at World Juniors in Jamaica in 2002, he was undoubtedly clean then. And he has only made the natural progression. He has certain physical attributes that a good coach can use to a superb advantage. He’s fast, and he’s tall enough to cover over 10 feet per stride in the middle of the race, I think Mr. Mills noticed that a few years ago and the rest is history.
3. Q : But that coupled with the general Jamaican dominance in sprinting, doesn’t it leave room for doubt?
A : I’m not gonna tell you I’m absolutely positive the Jamaican sprinters are clean, when I met Warren Weir he was a mediocre sprint HURDLER.
4. Q : Okay, so Bolt may genuinely be the prodigy, but you’d still say it’s possible the others are on drugs?
A : I’d still say a few other Jamaicans have some assistance from PED’s (performance enhancing drugs). I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to discover that certain (Jamaican) athletes are actually doping. Blake didn’t get fast overnight, it seems Weir did.
Most of my readers are Jamaicans, I want to hear your honest assessment, does anyone else believe it’s possible our athletes are using drugs? If no, why? If yes, why? All other nationalities are welcome to comment too, of course. I’m also very interested in hearing your assessment of Carl Lewis’ statements. I’m almost certainly going to be accused of being ‘badmind’, but so be it. The mic is now open, sprint to it and share your thoughts with me.
* Coach Kay Brown is a former athlete of York College, he currently coaches middle school and high school hurdlers in the United States.