As if there was anything left to be proved, Usain St Leo Bolt, cemented his place in the pantheon of sprinting gods by winning the 100-m and 200-m events at the ongoing World Athletics Champi-onships in Beijing. Born in 1986, the Jamaican sprinter first bagged the 100-metre event by a hair’s breadth and then won the 200-metre gold with ease, to live up to his nickname ‘Lightning Bolt’.
In an age where superlatives are tossed around casually, ‘the greatest’ does sit deservedly on Bolt’s shoulders. He was the first man to hold both the 100-m and 200-m world records since fully automatic time measurements became mandatory in 1977. The reigning Olympic champion in these events, Bolt became the first man to win six Olympic golds in sprinting. He has won every award one can speak of in the fold. What stands out, though, is his image. A champion whom women can take home to their mothers (they need to catch him first though); he is — most importantly — the clean champ.
Sporting icons have proven they have feet of clay, as drug claims continue to dog and at times nail the biggest names in sports. In fact, drug cheats are now so common and so rife that spectators are no longer surprised to find a big name cropping up during a probe or being proved guilty.
Every time such an event occurs, which has become too often for the spectators’ liking, followers find the credibility attached to the sport eroding. It has been chipped very often, with champions who have not been caught, admitting after years that they were part of a systematic doping programme.
Sports needs people to believe in it, to believe that athletes are competing against each other fairly.
In the battle between the needle users (drug cheats) and the nailers (those who seek to catch them), it is the aficionados who bear the brunt. That is why champions like Usain Bolt are important. They reinforce faith in the old-fashioned philosophy: Nice guys finish first.