Bolt delivers a message of hope to the world of athletics as he insists ‘I’m clean’
‘I was made to inspire people and made to run. I was given a gift and that’s what I do. I am clean’
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt at yesterday’s press conference prior to tonight’s Diamond League athletics meet at the Olympic stadium in London. Photo: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire.
It was Usain Bolt’s read-my-lips moment, when the greatest sportsman of his age told the world it could trust him. “I know I’m clean,” he said.
While conceding that a slew of failed drugs tests in recent weeks – including those of Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, the second and fourth fastest 100m runners in history – had “set back” the sport, Bolt insisted that his own performances were untainted.
“How long have people been following Usain Bolt?” he asked one inquisitor. “If you’ve been following me since 2002 you would know I’ve been doing phenomenal things since I was 15. I was the youngest person to win the world juniors. I ran the world youth record at 17. I’ve broken every record there is in every event I’ve ever done. I’ve proven myself since I was 15. I was always going to be great.”
Bolt’s pledge that his 100m and 200m world records and six Olympic gold medals were achieved through nothing but genetics and hard work came at a conference to promote the weekend’s Anniversary Games in London which soon morphed into an inquest into drug use in athletics.
Never before has Bolt been pressed so firmly on the issue. Never before has he answered in such depth. Many would have become irritated at the questioning but Bolt seemed to accept it was his duty, following the positive tests of the American Gay, Powell and four other Jamaican athletes, to respond to the questions.
“Definitely, it’s going to set us back a little bit, but as a person I can’t focus on this,” he said. “I am just trying to work hard, run fast and hopefully help people to forget what has happened, and just move on and look forward to the World Championships.”
He did reveal that he had spoken via BlackBerry messenger to Powell, who has admitted inadvertently taking a supplement which contained the banned amphetamine oxilofrine, to pass on his support for his compatriot.
“I had one BB conversation with him, really,” he said. “I didn’t want to bombard him with questions. I told him, ‘Sorry to hear what was going on’. And he said ‘Yes, it’s kind of rough, it’s hard.’ I just told him to stay strong and stay focused and hopefully everything will work out.”
Bolt warned the world against rushing to judgment over Powell and his Kingston club training partner Sherone Simpson, who also tested positive for oxilofrine. “It was surprising, definitely, but there are a lot of details left to be discussed,” he said. “I’m just sitting and waiting for the results.”
But he deftly sidestepped the question of whether he thought accidentally taking a minor stimulant should lead to a ban, adding: “I don’t make the rules. I can’t determine how harsh they should be. In life things happen, people make mistakes, mishaps happen. That’s why they have the IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations], Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency] and all these people sitting and deliberating what they should put in place . . . .”
Bolt, who will race in the 100m at the Olympic Stadium tonight, had a final message for the millions who will watch his return to the track where he stormed to a brilliant gold medal during London 2012: “I was made to inspire people and made to run,” he promised. “I was given a gift and that’s what I do. I am clean.”