Watching Bill Burr‘s hysterical bit on the Conan O’Brien show four years ago when he dissected Oprah‘s big reveal interview with Lance Armstrong – during which the disgraced Tour de France cyclist finally copped to the drug use that everyone had suspected for years – it dawned on me, if Lance was always assumed to be guilty though he passed every drug test, why hasn’t the public made the same assumption about the biggest names in athletics? Or maybe they have.
I’m not suggesting anything, just wondering out loud how the public mind works. (Really, this is just an excuse to post Bill Burr’s take on Oprah and Lance, which is funny and insightful at the same time, no easy task.)
So let’s look at the situation with athletics, especially in light of German ARD TV‘s recent investigation alleging the IOC covered up positive Jamaican test results from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where the sprint juggernaut won eleven medals.
First, both cycling and athletics have been awash in performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) for years, to the gills. And while people all around them get popped, the top guy who produces historic performances continues to sail along testing clean while whooping all the dirty boys.
That was the glory for Lance, right, how the one clean guy who had overcome cancer was able to beat all the drugged up guys. Isn’t that Usain Bolt, minus the cancer? Or is the difference in public outlook simply a matter of personality?
Rumors kept swirling around Lance for years, but he just kept defiantly denying, denying, denying, while attacking anyone who suggested otherwise. At the same time he kept passing all the tests, though, as it turns out, those tests were looking for drugs Lance wasn’t taking. That guy was always one bike-length ahead of the gendarmes.
Maybe that is one of the two main differences between Lance and Usain, there haven’t been any such consistent rumors around Bolt, even though some two dozen Jamaican athletes have either been suspended for drug use, publicly admitted doing it, been found to have done it by a court of law, or been suspended for failing to submit to mandatory testing (per my Wikipedia research). And list that includes a handful of headliners like Johan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Asafa Powell, and Sherone Simpson.
Just this January Bolt was stripped of one of his Beijing 2008 gold medals when Nesta Carter, who ran the opening leg on the winning Jamaican 4 X 100m team, was netted after a reanalysis of urine and blood samples.
Yet the public remains four-square behind Bolt even as they assume everyone else is probably not so innocent. Why? Because he was a child prodigy who showed extraordinary powers from the age of 15, and just kept going? Then what about Marion Jones? Wasn’t that who she was? Because, unlike Lance, but more like Shaq, Usain has been the ultimate athlete-jester who the entire world adopted like a fuzzy-wuzzy living sports mascot? Ain’t no one filled the role of athlete-jester quite like Bolt before, though Dwight Stones, recently departed Brian Oldfield, and more recently Maurice Green had their moments. But none of those guys ever had the entire sport resting on his shoulders.
That’s all the sport of athletics would need, right, for the likes of Bolt to get taken down. As if this sport isn’t already in a world of shite. And the word buzzing around is that another big time failure is about to be dropped that will sink this sport even lower than it is today. No, not Bolt.
So, please Usain, I know you are scheduled to retire after the London World Championships this summer, but for heaven sake, whatever you do, get out clean so we can pretend this once honorable sport still has a modicum of integrity as it gets passed on to the next generation. Wonder what Bill Burr makes of it all?
13 thoughts on “ON MAKING ASSUMPTIONS, WHO’S CLEAN, WHO’S NOT”
Wowzers! There is a lot here… but yes I think Bolt is too big too fall regardless. It would only happen if someone snitched on him which is not likely. The entire island of Jamacia would hate that person.
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You all need to back up here.yohan Blake was sanctioned for using a supplement which contained a banned substance not epo or any hard stuff. Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce took a pill for a tooth ache containing oxicodone which does not enhance performance sherone Simpson and asafa Powell drank a supplement which did not state all the ingredients on the label they sued the company which made the supplement and was awarded a hefty sum. and we did not have any local coach been banned for anything. So all you haters can stop hating bcuz we have so many young ones on the conveyer belt to unleash shortly. What you people don’t understand is that track and field is Jamaicans favorite past time. Like how soccer is Brazil’s favorite. If u all want to see where it all begins just attend one of our boys and girls champs.or go to YouTube.
Too many yachts at stake. Usain Bolt will not test positive.
A great rhetorical question to ask, Toni! Merits some thought as you raise a good point. Is the IOC suddenly going “soft” on Jamaica…. while being only “semi-hard” on proof positive cheating Russia last year? Why can’t the IOC be held more accountable for their weak position on drug cheats? Yes, is Usain Bolt like some of the big banks back in 2008-10….. “too big to fail?” Inquiring minds want to know…..and it is so frustrating to me! Do they really want to make this a “clean sport” or not?
Whew! Where do we go from here?
The speculations about Armstrong really picked up when a number of his former teammates accused him of doping and publicly stated that they witnessed him cheat. That’s when the public opinion swayed from “maybe a cheater” to “likely a cheater”.
With Usain Bolt, while a number of Jamaicans have been caught, as well as coaches, no one has ever pointed a finger at Usain and said they saw him cheat or have evidence that he is a cheater. So until then, I think the majority public opinion will give him the benefit of the doubt.
The simple answer to that question is this…. any Jamaica sprinter who would even remotely point a finger at the biggest sports star in Jamaica….would immediately disappear and suffer a fate worse than death at the hands of crazed mobs of Jamaican sports fans. It would be like taking down John Wayne in the USA back in the 50’s and 60’s ! They would fear for their life….and might as well leave the country as they would simply have no safe or welcome place to go!
Craig – very good point. But didn’t those who pointed the finger at Lance face the same scrutiny and threat?
Yes, Chris, to some degree….. but even at his peak….. Lance Armstrong was never half as big in the USA as Usain Bolt is in Jamaica! Jamaica is smaller and as some one else said here on the reply chain…..T & F is like THE National Sport of Jamaica…. other than drinking rum! Bolt could very well run for President of Jamaica some day. I would have to call him the most dominant sprinter of my lifetime… and there have been some pretty good ones earlier…people and even teammates of Lance’s did eventually point fingers at him…. and suffered short term as a result…. but were eventually lauded.
I would definitely agree in terms of the importance to national image that Usain is worth 10 Lances, if not more. And I could see why there would be a lot of pressure from an entire country not to say anything negative about him.
And as for the short period of time for Lance’s accusers – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/cycling/lancearmstrong/9804679/Armstrong-team-mate-Lance-ruined-peoples-lives-if-they-accused-him-of-doping.html
8-10 years is pretty long to me…..
Regardless, I can see your point why anyone who would suspect that UB is cheating is not going to say anything publicly. Because if that is what one man, Lance, and his lawyers did to his accusers, I can only imagine what an entire country could do to someone considered a national treasure…………….
The public came down on Armstrong because a) he was an easy target b) no one cares about cycling. Jonathan Vaughters has a great take on the doping in cycling 20 years ago.
Meanwhile some still feel Armstrong was destroying some noble enterprise like the Boy Scouts or something. It was all clean till he showed up. Right. Does Burr know anything about cycling or even care about it. But it makes for an easy laugh because the fan base for the sport is miniscule.
I’d love to see some jokes from Burr about the North Carolina basketball team on Late Night tv.
As for Bolt testing positive I really find it hard in the long run many would care in the U.S.
If the fan base for cycling is minuscule, then what’s the fan base for track, minisculisimo? And as for Burr’s bit on Lance, he surely would have had much more fodder for laughs if he had dissected Marion Jones’ mea culpa (not!) rather than Lance’s.