THE fastest man in history faced the media yesterday, 24 hours before his return to the Olympic Stadium in London for the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games, and said that the recent spate of doping scandals in his native Jamaica has nothing to do with him.
Usain Bolt has been based in London for much of the summer, where, he said, “All I do is train, sleep and play video games,” and so he was not home when the news broke that his fellow Jamaican sprinters, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson and Asafa Powell had all tested positive, as did the fastest man in the world this year – Tyson Gay of the USA.
Bolt has not talked to Powell, he said, only communicated with him by text. “I didn’t want to bombard him with questions. I told him, ‘Sorry to hear what’s going on.’ And he said, ‘Yes, it’s kind of rough, it’s hard.’ I told him to stay strong, stay focused, and hopefully it’ll work out.” He would not condemn Powell, Gay and the others, nor would he call for stiffer punishments, saying, “I don’t make the rules”.
On Powell’s positive test, he said: “For me it was a surprise what was going on, but I think there’s a lot of details to be discussed, so I’m just sitting and waiting, because there are a lot of things that haven’t been said.”
However, when it came to reassuring the world that he is clean, Bolt stopped prevaricating and started a speech with a question for his inquisitor: “I was hoping that question would come later in the day. But I was planning to explain to people, how long have you been following Usain Bolt? 2008 maybe?
“If you were following me since 2002, you would know that I’ve been doing phenomenal things since I was 15. I was the youngest person to win the world juniors, at 15. I ran the world junior record, 19.93, at 18. I’ve broken every record there is to break in every event I’ve ever done. So for me, I’ve proven myself since I was 15. So right now I’m just living out my dream.”
With Bolt, a joke is never far away, even when the subject is serious, and he laughed as he added: “And as my agent would say, I’m under-performing right now, so I need to step it up. But I’ve shown over the years that I was always going to be great. That’s pretty much all I have to say.”
But it was not all he was going to be asked. With Powell admitting he was taking 19 supplements, Bolt was asked what he takes, and how he can be sure it doesn’t contain anything on the banned list.
“I take vitamins,” he said. “Every athlete takes vitamins.”
His team, he explained, helps him avoid anything that might be on the banned list, but “it’s kind of hard”.
And it is a hard time for his sport, he admitted. “All I have to do is inspire people and run,” he said. “I was given a gift, and that’s what I do. I’m confident in myself and my team and the people I work with, and I know I’m clean so I’m just going to continue running and using my talent.”
On the subject of his talent, there is no getting away from the fact that his agent is right: he has been sub-par this season. In fact, the sprinter sitting beside him, James Dasaolu, has run faster, with his recent 9.91.
Bolt said he was aware of the sudden breakthrough of 25-year-old Dasaolu – “You take note of everything” – but his broad smile suggested that he does not see the Briton as a serious threat.
He repeated what he has been saying all season – that fans will not see him at his best until the world championships in Moscow next month, which could come as a disappointment for the 80,000 crowd that will fill the Olympic Stadium over the three days of the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games, with Bolt in action in tonight’s 100 metres and tomorrow’s relay.
“I never try to worry about times,” said Bolt. “I’m in great shape. I always do well in championships, and I take this race as a stepping stone to see where I’m at, and what I need to work on.”
Meanwhile, a more powerful condemnation of drug cheats came from another athlete who is competing this weekend, Valerie Adams, the shot putter from New Zealand awarded the Olympic gold medal after Nadzeya Ostapchuk, of Belarus, tested positive.
“I will never forgive her,” said Adams. “She took the moment away, that’s what hurts the most. At the time I was crying for myself, my country. And this thing was crying crocodile tears, embracing this moment that wasn’t hers. No sympathy. She can stay in Belarus forever.”