Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Orville Higgins | Sprinting's race for credibility

Published:Friday | January 27, 2017 | 1:00 AM

In a way, it was expected. Many of us were hoping against hope that it would not be, but on Wednesday, it turned out that Nesta Carter had indeed tested positive for the prohibited substance methylhexanamine.

He was tested prior to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and didn't return any positive findings. In that year, the drug wasn't on the banned list, certainly not by the same name, but later was, or any properties resembling the make-up of methylexanamine.

The kind of technicalities that have now caused him to test positive for the same drug almost a decade later will be the subject of another article. On that there are many questions to be asked. I wouldn't be surprised if Carter is now wondering just what is going on. I wouldn't be surprised if he appeals.

Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson was strident in his view that Carter was wronged. I'm hoping that Mr Patterson will be part of his legal team in his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. On the face of it, he seems to have just as good a chance to get his conviction overturned as did Veronica Campbell-Brown a few years ago when Mr Patterson was part of her team.

 

Damaged credibility

 

I'm more concerned now with what this has done to the credibility of track and field, and sprinting in particular. Nesta Carter is one of eight men in history to have gone as fast as 9.80 seconds or below legally. The list includes Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin, Yohan Blake, Maurice Green, Steve Mullings and Asafa Powell. The truth is that only two men on this esteemed list have never been implicated with drugs at some point. Those are Usain Bolt and Maurice Green.

More than 80 per cent of the men who have gone faster than 9.80 have had drug-related convictions, though Asafa Powell will argue that he was vindicated in an out-of-court settlement. If we narrow it down further, four out five Jamaicans who have run super-fast have all been implicated. What is the story that we can interpret from this?

This is not good for Carter, and it certainly is not good for Jamaica, but definitely, it is not good news for track and field in general. No one can blame the sceptics for looking suspiciously at anyone who does super-fast times.

The credibility of sprinting is slowly being eroded by these high-profile positive tests. It is now looking like it is impossible to run super-fast on just natural talent alone. Well, almost. Many will now take a second look at Bolt and wonder. Fresh doubts will start to surface.

And that, of course, is the unfortunate part. This is almost now a case of "show me your company and I will tell you who you are". It is going to be harder and harder for the world to believe that Bolt is clean. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

There is, of course, the flip side. Nesta Carter's conviction, and the growing list of super-sprinters who have been found guilty of taking prohibited substances, may actually add to Bolt's legacy. Bolt has been a revelation to the sport. Some could make the case that the more he remains clean, the greater his legacy will be. The fact that he can be so fast without being implicated with drugs in any way is now almost adding to his greatness.

The loss of his medal in the 4x100 is unfortunate, but that's the way the cookie has to crumble. It can't be any other way. If one member of the 4x100 team is tainted, it has to be that all others are punished, too.

 

Could lose other medals

 

It could get worse. The IAAF has announced that Carter's samples for events later than 2008 will be retested as well. The Jamaicans did win the 2012 Olympics 4x100 men as well, in record time, with Carter again leading us off. It is possible then that Bolt could lose his medal there, too, as well as the World Championships gold medals he would have garnered from 2009 to 2015. It also means that Jamaica's record in the 4x100 could be history.

All this is sad, but one hopes that athletes will learn something. Skip the supplements. Full stop. Why can't they run ital? Why can't they check and recheck what's on a positive list and what isn't? If they are unsure, is it so hard to bring the substance to WADA or JADCO and getting the thing verified?

I can hardly believe in quality sprinters anymore.

- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.