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A Pyrrhic victory for athletics

By Joe Molloy

Published 27/08/2015

Usain Bolt has enjoyed massive praise over the past few days
Usain Bolt has enjoyed massive praise over the past few days

There has been much talk of Usain Bolt and the saving of his sport in recent days. It seems many have taken their lead from Steve Cram on the BBC commentary: "And Bolt gets it! He's saved his title! He's saved his reputation! He may have even saved his sport!"

I didn't really mind that Cram was so blatantly anti-Justin Gatlin. Most of us are. Instinctively we all feel there is something very disturbing about a 33-year-old running faster times than back in 2005, a year before he tested positive for testosterone. He claims he was sabotaged, I should mention. But to suggest that Bolt has done anything more than save the blushes of some very grateful IAAF folk is seriously pushing it.

Let's take a step back from the result. This whole race was openly billed as a very straightforward morality play. For Bolt versus Gatlin, read good versus evil. It was the presumably clean guy against the twice-convicted and unrepentant doper. But here's the key point.

It is irrelevant that the clean guy won. The issue is that the presumably clean guy is put in that ridiculous position in the first place. That this was the accepted premise for the race only highlights its ruination. The sport has already lost.

Even Seb Coe openly said he would feel queasy about handing gold over to Gatlin. At his next Press conference I hope he's asked if silver is much better?

It has been so odd to see well thought-out articles which claim Bolt has maintained the credibility of the event. Of the nine finalists, four have been convicted of doping.

Ultimately, I was happy to see Bolt win, but part of me wanted Gatlin to steamroll the field too. Sheer unavoidable embarrassment might kickstart some kind of IAAF action.

Perversely, it was one of the most watched 100m finals in years. The marketability of the morality play is good for economics, so embarrassment is the only hope for reform.

The 200m final is on tonight. Once again, it's Bolt versus Gatlin with many feeling Mr Evil has the edge given the injury-plagued season Mr Good has endured. So I guess if the sport was possibly saved on Sunday, Steve Cram will announce its ruination tonight?

  • Joe Molloy is a broadcast sports journalist in Dublin

Belfast Telegraph

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