Losing perfect record of golds hurts, says Bolt
Usain Bolt said he was saddened to have his spotless record of nine Olympic gold medals ruined after Jamaican team-mate Nesta Carter was found to have used performance-enhancing drugs.
Bolt had to hand back the gold he won with Jamaica’s 4x100 metres relay team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when an international court dismissed Carter’s appeal in May.
Carter was among dozens of athletes whose samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games were retested, using improved methods, before the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Bolt, who is in Bermuda on a promotional visit for Digicel, exploded on to the world stage in Beijing, where the Jamaica quartet, including Asafa Powell and Michael Frater, set a world record in the 4x100 in a time of 37.10sec. All four sprinters have been disqualified.
“It’s always going to be hard to lose one of your gold medals,” Bolt said. “[Winning gold medals] was the main aim when I started. I got the first three, the second three and in my last [Olympics] I got the nine.
“Losing one is kind of sad. It’s just one of those things in life and I don’t think it takes away from what I’ve done throughout my career. I’m not going to stress about it. I’ll just move on.”
Bolt is unequivocal in his damnation of drug cheats and believes his sport, which has long been tarnished by steroid use, is becoming more transparent with the introduction of rigorous drug-testing programmes.
“I think [Sebastian Coe, the International Association of Athletics Federations president] has made a major step by making the sport more transparent.
“They are putting information on websites so you can see when athletes were tested and how many times they have been tested.
“He’s using other associations to also test us, so it’s not just our federation and the IAAF. He’s making it much easier for people to trust us because when people can see it they will believe it more. It’s now time for the athletes to prove to the world that they can do it clean.”
The 31-year-old insists it never crossed his mind before a major race whether any of his rivals were doping. He said “getting the job done” was always his sole focus.
“That’s not something I ever worried about; it doesn’t help the situation worrying about whether they are clean or not,” Bolt said. “If they are not [clean] you’re not going to know until three or four months’ time. You can’t sit and worry abut that.
“You have to go out and compete at your best and think ‘hopefully everyone in the race is clean and I can get it done’. That was always my focus.”
It has been more than 14 years since Bolt previously visited the island for the 2004 Carifta Games. Aged 17, he was already considered a sprinting phenomenon and lived up to his hype by setting a world junior record of 19.93 in the 200 metres in front of a delirious crowd at the National Stadium.
He returned to the scene of that triumph yesterday morning to speak to local schoolchildren and said the memories came “flooding back” to him.
“It was wonderful,” he said. “I went to the track and reminisced a little bit — it was pretty cool. Back in the day it was all about who could get the most medals and break the most records for Jamaica. I didn’t even think I’d [one day] be running the 100. There was never any thought process of me thinking that I’d be the fastest man in the world.
“Surprisingly that was the [best] thing that happened to me that year as I got injured. After [Bermuda] it was pretty much downhill.”
Despite hanging up his spikes last August, finishing third at the World Championships in London in his final race, Bolt very much remains in the limelight.
His mesmerising bursts of brilliance are gone, but the void he has left behind is unlikely to ever be filled — certainly not by one man. And certainly not in Jamaica, whose sprinters failed to win a single medal at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, in April — the first major competition since Bolt retired.
“It’s going to be hard [to replace me],” he said. “I wasn’t trying to set a high standard for people to aim at. I tried to put track and field on the map and I think I did that.
“I had competitors over the years — Asafa Powell, Warren Weir and Tyson Gay — all these athletes who competed with me and pushed me to be the best.
“All track and field needs is for athletes to step up and keep pushing themselves to make it competitive. The more competitive it is, the more people will watch it.”
Bolt spends much of his time travelling the world for sponsorship commitments or charity work. It is fun, he says, but just not as much fun as commanding the attention of 80,000 people on the biggest stage of all.
“Knowing I’ll never be on the track again competing in front of millions of people anticipating what I’m going to do — that’s what I miss the most.
“When I was at the Commonwealth Games and the crowd got loud — well, I got chills. I miss that.”
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