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2013-08-19
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Fastest man held to higher standards amid widespread drug use in sports

Global Times (2013-08-19 P30)
By Mark Dreyer
An incredible thing happened about a week ago, when Usain Bolt regained his 100 meters World Championship title. ­Olivier Morin, a ­photographer for AFP, captured a shot of the man nicknamed the ­Lightning Bolt with an actual ­lightning bolt clearly visible in the ­background above the stadium roof.

It was, in some ways, the defining picture of Bolt's ­remarkable career, one in which he has now won eight World Championship gold medals, six Olympic titles, and set eight world records.

Bolt is undoubtedly the greatest track athlete of his generation. Other athletes have scaled great heights in ­Moscow, but none captivates the ­worldwide press as much as the fastest man in the world, which is why he is scrutinized more than any other athlete.

When it was revealed last month that Tyson Gay and ­Asafa Powell - together ­responsible for half of all the 100 meters times ever run ­under 9.8 seconds - both used performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs, it was impossible not to wonder if Bolt had done as well.

With baseball's PED ­scandal blown wide open, cycling's ongoing battle to convince the skeptics that it has turned a new leaf, and track and field athletes all testing positive for banned substances in recent months, Bolt's legacy is more important than ever. He might be single-handedly saving the sport right now, but if he is ever found to have crossed the line, he would single-handedly destroy it.

In other sports, such as American football, PED use is almost acceptable. Players may test positive and receive suspensions, but none of them are vilified. Football fans clearly don't care.

But athletics fans do. If you're watching to see who will be faster, higher, stronger, as the Olympic motto goes, you want to see these heights ­attained through a ­combination of natural talent and hard work. But the ethics of sports and sportsmanship cannot be ­ignored, and if you cross that line, you become a cheat.

There have been growing calls to legalize all substances in sports, with the argument being made that this is the only way the playing field can truly be level, while the associated health risks are downplayed. We are a long, long way from this becoming a reality, but we're closer to it than ever ­before. In the meantime, though, today's heroes have to live by a certain set of rules. I, for one, hope that Usain Bolt does so.

The author is a Beijing-based freelance writer. dreyermark@gmail.com
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