Ezekel Alan

This blog is about: cotton candy, cold milo, midgets, mangoes, sex, aged rum – everything but writing my next book

Archive for the tag “Carl Lewis”

Cheating – in athletics, not relationships or politics

List of Major League Baseball players suspende...

At the end of my chain-smoking day, I put aside my weed, and I sometimes pray;

I say to the Lord, “I have never been gay, but I would like gays to be treated in a proper way.”

There are all kinds of things that come to my mind at the end of each day. These days my thoughts often turn to the Republican party in the US, and what could happen to American society if they were to come to power. I have heard some words and seen some deeds that have caused more than a small amount of consternation in me, a black man. I sometimes wonder what I would be thinking if I were a woman, or gay.

I read a New York Times article the other day that spoke of the dark (in deeds, not colour) road to the White House that some folks seem to be taking, and the devious means being pursued. (See article here.)

But that’s not what this blog today is about.

Neither is it about whether Jamaican men cheat in relationships, which is a subject that draws an awful lot of visitors to this website.

The question for today’s blog is ‘Do Jamaican men cheat in athletics?’

Or is it the question?

Carl Lewis rubbed me mighty wrong before, during and after the Olympics with his less than sincere concerns about the standards of drug testing in Jamaica, and his blatantly nasty insinuations about Usain Bolt’s performance. He wanted the world to take a good look at drug testing standards and facilities in our little, poor, backward, third world nation, because to him, it is unthinkable that we could produce athletes that could not only beat but humble his countrymen.

At the end of my chain-smoking day I started to reflect on the fact that no prominent Jamaican athlete has ever been tested positive for drugs in any international event. So, let us assume that we evaded detection at home, and made it to the world stage where drug-testing facilities are better. Nothing. (Not yet, and I hope not ever.)

The US, on the other hand, has had a long string of domestic and international drug-testing scandals. In fact, I don’t think there is any other country that has reported as many prominent cases of doping.

I found on the internet a list of the top ten sports figures whose careers have been tarnished by allegations or evidence of doping:

10. Shawne Merriman, NFL, San Diego Chargers – USA

9. Jose Canseco, MLB  – USA

8. Rafael Palmeiro, MLB – USA

7. Ben Johnson, Olympic Sprinter – Canada

6. Floyd Landis, American Cyclist – USA

5. Kostas Kenteris & Ekaterini Thanou, Olympians – Greece
4. Barry Bonds, MLB  – USA

3. Alex Rodriguez, MLB – USA

2. Marion Jones, Olympian – USA

1. Roger Clemens, MLB  – USA

(Read more at http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-sports-figures-steroids.php#oSZ8XXj5GYCp8svm.99)

Let’s forget about the unspoken suspicions around a whole generation of runners in the Flo Jo era, and get to BALCO, Marion Jones and a sub-industry producing drugged up athletes. Should we then move to Barry Bonds?

English: Marion Jones - September 30th, 2000 a...

Marion Jones – September 30th, 2000 at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, let us instead look at this Lance Armstrong case – which is interesting for the fact that we are not talking about one person, but a whole network of cyclists who are confessing to the fact that there was some kind of ‘operation’ going on.

I don’t know if Lance is guilty or innocent, and a part of me wants him to be innocent, partly because I want to believe there is some good in us, but mostly because of his fight with cancer, and the fact that I hate to see someone’s reputation and life ruined and destroyed without solid evidence.

English: Cyclist Lance Armstrong at the 2008 T...

Cyclist Lance Armstrong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I find also really interesting is that the great World Anti-Doping Agency and the US anti-doping bodies could have been testing this man for over 7 years and now need to rely on witnesses to testify that he was taking drugs. I really wonder what Carl Lewis and the whole lot of them have to contribute to this issue of the caliber of these first world drug testing bodies.

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Is Usain Bolt the greatest athlete of all time?

Usain Bolt after his victory and world record ...

Usain Bolt after his victory and world record in the 100m at the bird’s nest, during 2008 Beijing olympics, august 16th (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since his famous and electrifying victory in the London Olympics 200 meters race and his comment that he’s the greatest athlete ever, Usain Bolt has stirred up considerable debate in the media and across social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

After the race Bolt also made the comment that he’s now a living legend. He said it without caramel, honey or sugar-coating, and as a result his comment hasn’t gone down well with many folks who seem to be choking on it.

The first quick reaction came from a familiar source, IOC chairman Jacques Rogge, who was less critical than in 2008 but equally clear in his views – not so fast young man, he says, you have to prove yourself over a career and not only over two Olympics. Rogge was quoted as saying, “The career of Usain Bolt has to be judged when he has retired,”  noting that Carl Lewis amassed medals over 4 Olympics and therefore has a greater claim to the title of being greatest.

Jacques Rogge

Jacques Rogge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carl Lewis, for his part, has commented that Bolt’s times were essentially nothing special. His views were echoed in some parts of American media, where commentators have been saying that because timing equipment were not that good in bygone decades, then no one knows how fast people have run before. Lewis has, on more than one occasion, also hinted at the possibility of drugs being the reason for Bolt’s exceptional performances. Other commentators online have said that as soon as Bolt’s world records are broken then Bolt will be forgotten.

While others have gone even further to say that Bolt may be the best Sprinter but he’s not the best Athlete, often citing Michael Phelps and his 18 gold medals as another candidate for the title ‘best athlete’.

These are those who have been choking on Bolt’s comments. On the other side of the fence we have not only Bolt and thousands of Jamaicans, but people such as Lord Sebastian Coe, who have said that what Bolt has done in pulling off back to back Olympic victories in both the 100 and 200 meter events makes him a legend. (See Coe’s comments here.)

What should we consider to be the truth? First, let us say that as a general rule athletes should let the world be their judge rather than try to be the judge of their own greatness. I don’t think it was necessary for Bolt to make those comments about himself, and would agree that it was lacking in taste and good judgement.

Second, we can also safely say that Carl Lewis, as always, appears to hate the fact that the world’s attention is centered on someone other than himself. He was a great athlete but has never been truly likeable to the rest of the world, and we can see why again. All his statements hinting at drugs point to Jamaica – yet he was never the one to make allegations against Marion Jones, Flo Jo, or any American sprinter. There is nothing honourable in his comments, they are inspired by petty malicious jealousies, and should be seen for what they are.

Carl Lewis at the "green carpet" for...

Carl Lewis (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Likeable?

These aside, we should also recognise that:

  •  We view excellence from the perspective of the point in time in which we live

As human beings we tend to bestow the title “greatest ever” on those athletes that live in our own time. This is why, for instance, if you do a casual browse of different websites which rate best footballers of all time, the greats of years gone by tend to fade in the lists, and get replaced by the Lionel Messis and Zidanes etc. It is simply harder for someone who knows little about Eusebio (Portugal, 1957-79) to see him as a better football player than Messi who they might have watched play, without even looking at goal scoring stats. This is also why just about every decade the lists of the 7 Wonders of the World change and bring in more contemporary Wonders.  We give a value of 100 to our time, and we undervalue both the past and the future. This is simply how humans are conditioned to behave.

  • We view excellence based on our connection with the personality

It is also likely that we will see the “best player’ as someone we can relate to, as opposed to someone we find arrogant and offensive. Here I am not even making a comparison between Carl Lewis and Bolt, but rather a general observation. Cristian Ronaldo is a magnificent footballer, and scores as many goals as Messi, but Messi gets rated above him on virtually all lists of the best. People simply like Messi more, and almost all judgements made about who is ‘the best’ are subjective and based on a majority perspective.

  • We view excellence based on our connection with the sport

Then there is also our connection with the sport and its universal appeal. There are no doubt amazing athletes in baseball, cricket, swimming (Phelps, etc), but these sports do not have the appeal of football or of the 100 meters track and field race. Few people in the world will care about or know who broke what baseball record, or the 50m butterfly. Even if we read about it, it simply does not stick in our collective memory.

What does this all tell us? Simply, that this is Bolt’s moment, his time; that the world likes him an awful lot more than either Phelps, or Lewis; and millions of people regard the 100 and 200 meter Olympic finals as the pinnacle athletic events. He is therefore being celebrated for being a great athlete of our time, and possibly longer. His memories will fade in time, make no mistake about it, for this is the fate of all great athletes.  But for those of us who have lived to see him, whether on t.v. or in person, there is no doubt in our minds that he’s something extraordinary.

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