SPORTSDESK COMMENT WITH MARTIN DOWEY: Athletics in the doping doldrums
Sunday’s battle of good against evil in the World Championships 100 metres final in Beijing just highlighted for me the current state of world athletics.
The global press lifted the Jamaican hero Usain Bolt onto a pedestal over US dark lord Justin Gatlin in a matchup that would have fit seamlessly into a Hollywood blockbuster.
Fortunately Bolt edged the battle in the Championships’ showpiece by one hundredth of a second. Maybe consigning proven dope cheat Gatlin to the lost pages of Wikipedia for all eternity.
Bolt deserves all the credit for his performance, but much of the focus will still be snatched away from him.
Sadly for athletics there is a quick fix to make a good athlete great, but no quick fix to stamp doping out for good.
Gatlin is one of many to use that miracle booster, otherwise known as testosterone.
I suppose the temptation must be huge.
Imagine a drug that turned a non-league footballer into Lionel Messi, everyone would use it, just for showing off in the park.
In athletics the punishment for using this drug doesn’t always fit the crime.
Gatlin should have been banned for life when he was found guilty of using the substance, but instead he only got a four-year sentence due to his co-operation with the right people.
Many will see this as a case of serving his ban so all is forgiven.
But in a sport trying to distance itself from cheats, why allow one to perform as a headline act?
It’s clear that we’ll never really know who are the rogues of athletics.
Many plead innocence, blaming doctors, coaches and in Gatlin’s case the masseuse.
Surely though, these people are not stupid enough to take these drugs without knowing.
Like all narratives, sport needs the battle of good versus evil, these contests have kept us enthralled throughout the years.
For me cheats don’t fit into this category, but until governing bodies really clamp down, they will always lurk in the dark shadows.