by John Furgele
Yes, there was a small blizzard behind him (4.1 MPH), but Tyson Gay’s 9.68 100 meter victory in the United States Olympic Trials was awfully impressive. Even more impressive might have been his semifinal win, where he ran 9.77 seconds and “shut it down” with about seven meters left.
Sprinters have a relatively short life span. You can see them knocking on the door for a year or two, then for two to three years, they dominate, then they fade away as another sprinter rises and takes over the perch. The pattern is there. In 1984 and 1988 Carl Lewis (Ben Johnson, too, but there were drugs)reigned, but by 1992-1993, Linford Christie took over. By 1995, it was clear that it was Donovan Bailey’s turn, but by 1998, Maurice Greene became the premier sprinter.
Most of these three year reigns include an Olympics. Christie, Bailey and Greene won Olympic Golds in 1992, 1996 and 2000. Justin Gatlin appeared poised to take the mantle in 2004 and perhaps beyond, but a failed drug test appears to have done him in.
Now, it appears to be Tyson Gay’s turn. But, we have to be honest here as well. Where did Gay come from? How was he able to drop his times so quickly? Unfortunately, this is a sport where fast times are often followed with raised eyebrows.
Gay appears to be the real deal, but the same was said of Gatlin, Greene, Christie and Lewis and all four either failed a drug test or was accused of taking dugs (Maurice Greene, in this case). And, of course, Marion Jones, the Queen of American Sprinting never failed a drug test, but is currently in prison for lying to federal prosecutors, admitting that she did indeed take performance enhancing drugs.
No sport, except for perhaps the Tour de France, needs a clean Olympics more than track and field. Of all the sports in the world, there is nothing more pure than seeing who can run the fastest, and throw the farthest. The events are pure, but we need the athletes to be pure as well.
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