Bolt is a legend…but could’ve done so much more for athletics

A look at the future of athletics post-Usain Bolt and what his lenient stance on drug cheats has done to the sport.

Usain Bolt could be the greatest athlete in the history of sport. A man so physically supreme it was as if he was hand-crafted for sprinting.

He has been titled as the man who single-handedly saved athletics and a role model for many morally as well as physically. One of the few ‘clean’ sprinters in the dark age of the sport.

He has such a wonderful, infectious personality. People all over the world have a united and unrivalled respect for his athletic prowess and cheeky persona.

What a platform he built for himself. The sponsors, the media, the fans… they lap it all up, fall silent for every word he utters and will oblige to whatever he preaches.

This man is, and has been, the poster boy of athletics for the last decade. This is a man with over 12 and a half million Instagram and Twitter followers. If he says something, people notice.

Stance on drugs

Competing in an age of drug cheats, not to mention state-sponsored doping programmes, he’d be the first to understand the importance of being a ‘clean’ athlete with the sport on the verge of a complete loss of credibility.

Athletics is in dire straits but Bolt was one of the few that could keep the sceptics quiet. He was the blood that kept the heart of athletics pumping.

In his position, Bolt, in my opinion, should’ve been far more vocal in his condemnation of drug cheats. Far too often he took a weak stance towards it.

Take, for example, his response to journalists after his bronze medal in the 100 metres at the IAAF World Athletics Championships this summer.

He was questioned why no athletes had run sub ten seconds in the 100 metres, hinting that without drugs it is now impossible to do so with stronger doping controls (with two-time convicted doper Justin Gatlin sitting next to Bolt, gold medal draped around his neck).

Bolt gave a defensive response – “I think everyone up here finds that very disrespectful. We work hard and Justin has done his time throughout the years and he’s proven himself over and over again and I’ve proven myself over and over again.

“For you to directly say something like that I take that disrespectfully because we’ve done so many great things throughout the years.”

You can’t blame him for that. He’s a man of great integrity, certainly not a sore loser, and he’s hardly going to slate the man sitting right next to him in the public eye for his past misdemeanours.

However, what makes me incredibly uncomfortable is Bolt and numerous journalists laughing at the end of his response. As the man who has carried athletics through the ‘drug age’ and has seen the sport he loves being destroyed in front of him, I think his reaction was erring on the side of ignorant.

If more current athletes of Bolt’s stature had developed a hard-hitting no-nonsense stance on drug cheats, this could well be the fuel to help drive change in athletics. To change a culture so that even just a few more athletes think twice about cheating.

If he was the saviour of athletics that everyone hypes him up to be, why didn’t he take a tougher stance towards cheats in his career?

Let’s be honest, perhaps he didn’t want all the extra baggage of being this figure for change. And as such a marketable man, from a sponsors point of view, would they want their top client embroiling himself in such controversy? Probably not. So he’d be more than content just letting his sprinting do the talking.

Take a moment to stop reading this. Search on the internet ‘Usain Bolt condemns drug cheats’. You’ll see just two articles showing that.

For a man that built such a huge platform and earned so much respect he could’ve done so much more for the future of athletics. He has passively allowed the sport to be continually tainted, injection by injection, instead of being a leader of change that he could so easily have been.

His name will be remembered for a long time – I’ll be telling my grandchildren about him no doubt. But it just feels like another example of limp acceptance of a disease running rife in athletics.

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