Unlike the doping sample of Nesta Carter, Usain Bolt’s legacy is untainted.
The news that Carter, Bolt’s disgraced Jamaican companion from the 4x100 relay at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, is a dope perhaps came like a Bolt from the blue, but should the great Usain really concern himself with such subterfuge?
Carter has been done retrospectively after traces of a prohibited substance were found in re-analysis of his samples from Beijing some eight years on.
Advances in scientific methods means retired athletes everywhere can be caught for misdemeanours of the past. The International Olympic Committee's actions should be welcomed, but should not be allowed to take the golden sheen off the fastest man in history. With or without the relay trinket in an unparalleled set of nine, Bolt is undiminished.
Swiping Bolt achievements away from him because of the actions of Carter does not alter the past. You cannot rob a sporting great of his greatness because of the desperate conduct of others.
In his golden shoes, Bolt won his ‘triple triple’ fairly in 2008, the 2012 London Games and last year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro. It was not won in a lab, and should not be lost in a lab.
The problem with team sports is that you can be penalised for another person’s shortcomings. Despite it all being dependent on individual times, the relay is the closest thing Bolt will come to a team in athletics, but are we really saying he is somehow tarnished by association?
It would be like Bolt’s beloved Manchester United being denied a Premier League title because one of their players contributed a dodgy urine sample. The player would be punished, not the team. Rio Ferdinand discovered such an outcome in 2003 when he was banned for eight months and fined £50,000 for merely missing a drugs test.
Bolt is one of the great icons of our time. Running away from poverty from the Jamaican town of Trelawny and into the collective psyche of global prominence has almost single-handedly raised the profile of him and athletics to the levels of Muhammad Ali in boxing, Pele in football, Tiger Woods in golf or Jonah Lomu in rugby union.
There are moments and men who transcend their sport, as if their calling in life has a greater meaning.
A combination of nine pictures made on August 20, 2016 shows Jamaica's sprinter Usain Bolt posing with his gold medals on the podiums of (from bottom to top) Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games during the victory ceremonies.
Image credit: Eurosport
"Athletics is in such a poor shape that it is unfortunate for him," said the 1996 Olympic 200m and 400m winner Michael Johnson after witnessing the completion of the ‘triple triple’ last summer.
It is difficult to really put into perspective his impact, because the sport has done such a poor job of promoting itself and policing itself that Bolt has stood apart from the sport. Good for him, otherwise I think the sport would have dragged him down.
People who have no interest in athletics, are interested in Bolt. One recalls witnessing a sense of rejoicing in a Spanish bar at the 2015 World Championships when Bolt overcame the much-maligned Justin Gatlin to claim the 100m gold against a man who had already been banned for several years over doping.
Bolt being clean and beating Gatlin was viewed as a symbolic renewal of the Corinthian Spirit. It was viewed as a win against the cheats. He pointed this out in a recent interview with The Guardian.
When you work so hard for what you have done, and it finally comes, it should feel good. I’m not going to let somebody else rob me of that moment. I feel good because I know I’ve done it clean.
Usain Bolt is keen to inspire people
London gets the chance to say farewell to Bolt at the World Championships in September, his final major meeting before he retires. It will be easy to gush.
He will depart the scene holding astonishing world records of 9.58sec in the 100m and 19.19sec in the 200m that will never grow tired, but neither will his sense of theatre that is equally probing. He is a believable figure, a man with a fondness for socialising, a man who likes to party as hard as he runs. He is man who at the age of 31 has an entire film dedicated to making running 100m something greater than you could ever imagine.
Image credit: AFP
Decades from now, sports fans will discuss Bolt in the same breath as athletics. And they will immediately think of Bolt's ‘triple triple’ in sprinting like they do when they celebrate Jessie Owen’s act of defiance before Adolf Hitler in carrying off four golds at the 1936 Berlin Games. They will not remember Carter beyond next week.
Whether or not he holds eight instead of nine gold medals is not the relevant question here. What is more pertinent is: where were you when Bolt won his 100m golds at the past three Olympic Games?
There is every chance you will remember.