When I called home Monday to talk about one of the most surreal events I’ve ever covered, everyone wanted to know whether the fastest human alive was someone they could truly believe in? Is he free of any illegal performance-enhancer that might make a man capable of posting 9.95 seconds suddenly able to go, oh, 9.63 seconds — Bolt’s Olympic-record winning time?
So Monday night at Olympic Stadium, I asked a dozen current and three former Olympians what they thought. Several were bothered I asked, saying it was unfair to Bolt, who has never tested positive for anything illegal and has welcomed any and all testing procedures since the lead-up to the Beijing Games in 2008. But most of the current Olympians, who have had to defend themselves and teammates against drug allegations, understand it’s now part of the landscape.
“At the end of the day, if he didn’t get caught yet, it means he’s not on anything,” said T’erea Brown, the U.S. hurdler who qualified for the 400 final Monday night. “What he did last night was just amazing. If he would have lost, they would have said, ‘He’s probably not what he was on [in Beijing].’ I don’t think that’s the case. I think he’s supersonic.”
Said Billy Mills, the U.S. gold medalist at 10,000 meters in 1964: “I don’t think he’s on any kind of performance-enhancing drugs. I just think he’s borderline inhuman. He’s just an incredible athlete.”
Mills acknowledged his famous victory in Tokyo, in which an unheralded amateur overtook the world and Olympic champions over the last 100 meters, would have raised eyebrows today.
This skeptical environment is a byproduct of busted world-class sprinters Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. This is the can’t-believe-what-we-see world Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative chemist Victor Conte has given us. There are no Billy Millses anymore; we’d want to see the results of his urine test first.