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Orville Taylor: Win or lose, he's already Bolted into history

Published:Sunday | August 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin

The world will stand still today as the most anticipated 100 metres in modern history runs off later. My patriotism doesn't allow me to bet on any non-Jamaican athlete, and despite my sentimental preference for Asafa Powell, Usain St Leo Bolt might be the next Jamaican sprinter to make my friend Oral Tracey eat noxious matter on television. After all, with a surname like that, he must be super-fast and, unlike the myth, lightning does strike multiple times in the same place.

Names do make a difference: 'Gatling' is a loose cannon, which is given an unfair advantage in a rifle shoot. But I will stick with the Pow - in Powell, rather than the Safa in his first name, and, of course, I'm not touching Tyson Gay.

But let me put one issue to rest. Bolt is a legend, over and over. No one else has ever run faster than 9.60 seconds in the 100 metres. And only three men have ever gone below 9.70. In the 200 metres, Bolt's 19.19, running into a 0.3 mps headwind, is scary. Only he, Yohan Blake (19.29) and Michael Johnson have ever run faster than 19.50. And only Bolt has done it multiple times.

Repeating as Olympic 100 and 200 metres champion, in emphatic fashion, with the exception of the blip of a false start in the World Championships 100 metres in 2011, he has been as dominant as a politician in a lie-telling contest. If Bolt does nothing ever again in his life and runs nothing but his mouth, he has cemented his legacy like squatters in a government-controlled garrison community. Nothing can erase his greatness. His further success will only put him to the level of hyper-reality and fables.

Since last year, as Bolt recovered from his injuries, Powell struggled with his and Gay served his ban, American Justin Gatlin has notched up an impressive streak of victories, being the only man to touch the 9.7s over the last two seasons. Indeed, his consistent 9.7s form, with a personal of 9.74, is faster than any time the aforementioned big three have run since 2012. The form book says that it is Gatlin's race to lose. Nonetheless, unless whoever beats Bolt finds a way of running 9.58, then the very ordinary 9.7s are not even worth chronicling.

Everybody knows that if the unthinkable happens, and Bolt loses, it will be because the big man was not 100 per cent, not having fully recuperated from injury and surgery. Moreover, to make the claim of being the world's fastest man, Gatlin, or whoever else, must run below 9.58 and 19.19, respectively. Then, if he somehow manages to pull it off, which he can't, no one can tell me that it is not the double dose of 'kusumpeng' that he took years ago.

 

Reserving judgment

 

Now, a man is not guilty unless proven so. Therefore, I will not say that he is on the juice again, although his personal best 9.74 and 19.58 are phenomenal at any age, much less after age 33. Of course, let us acknowledge that Carmelita Jeter ran her 10.64 at almost 30 years old. And didn't our own Danny McFarlane run his personal record 48.00 for the 400 hurdles when he was 32? Furthermore, our living legend, Merlene Ottey, raced to her indoor 200 metres world record of 21.87, just shy of her 33 birthday and her still-spectacular 10.74, for the 100 metres, at the ripe old age of 36. Only Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has run faster as a Jamaican, and only four other women, period, in the 100 metres.

What bothers me is the lasting effect of the steroids that Gatlin tested positive for in 2006. I don't care if he is cleaner than the whistle factory and entire wind section. If a farmer used chemical fertilisers and genetically modified plants for years, she cannot suddenly crossbreed the plants with natural ones and cover the topsoil with bovine excrement. Far from being organic, it is nothing more than hiding under a pile of bull. She thinks she is clean but she's fooling herself.

Similarly, my erstwhile drug dealer, who made millions in ill-gotten gains, cannot boast of being a legitimate 'businessman' when he has thoroughly rinsed the blood money and pretends to not be a crook.

Such is the advantage one gets from steroids. A study published in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Physiology notes, "Exposure to anabolic steroids may have long lasting, possibly permanent, performance-enhancing effects." Once those muscles have been doused with the anabolic steroids, they are changed for life. It is like the celibate prude telling the world that she is a virgin again, having weaned herself off sex, for a decade. And it doesn't matter how often she greets the men around her with the customary 'Hi!'

And that is why Bolt is so great, that we can make not only grater cakes with him, but gizzada. He is squeaky clean, and has never even failed a DNA blood test despite not studying for it. Damn! He even passed the 'bhutto test', set by his neighbour, Jinx.

 

Legacy sealed

 

This epitome of pure talent and sportsmanship doesn't have to win another race to be a legend.

Maybe it hasn't yet set in. Jamaicans in 2008 were talking about the 'level playing field' after Bolt's brilliance on the track. But none of pharmacies on legs has ever run times close to him. Imagine, a man, pure and simple, powered by green bananas, and the occasional stout, locally bred and coached in patois.

Nevertheless, in the event that the winner is not Bolt, I pray that it isn't Gatlin or any non-Jamaican. Still, my money is on the tall Jamaican, and I believe that the Chinese, with their penchant for imitation, will have already learnt the national anthem of our country and pray and play it at the same time.

- Dr Orville Taylor, senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host, is the 2013-14 winner of the Morris Cargill Award for Opinion Journalism. His just-published book, 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets', is now available at the UWI Bookshop. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.