Reporting Dan Bernstein
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By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) There’s nothing wrong with watching the Olympics – particularly track and field – with full awareness that most of the achievements being celebrated are not entirely human. In fact, that’s the only reasonable approach for anyone with even a passing interest in these events.
For many of us, years of drug-tainted performances have deadened the senses. Records fall, anthems play, shoes get sold, and then we get back to sports that matter more to us. For others, the athletes are not so much tainted as scientifically enhanced – the competition viewed now as a high-tech synergy of man and molecular engineering, in which the outcomes can still be celebrated for what they actually are, regardless of the laughable rhetoric that accompanies the games, insisting it’s something more pure.
There is another place where too many still exist, however, that is as intellectually dishonest as it is willfully ignorant, where convenient blind spots and emotionaI neediness cause otherwise intelligent people to create fairylands of childish naiveté.
It is indefensible ground. The province of suckers.
Even the simplest assessment of the circumstances surrounding the explosive success of Jamaican sprinting, for example, sets off alarms. There is enough information available that you’d think it would keep anyone from waxing romantic about Usain Bolt or his teammates.
“When people ask me about Bolt, I say he could be the greatest athlete of all time,” Carl Lewis told the Times of London. “But for someone to run 10.03 one year and 9.69 the next, if you don’t question that in a sport that has the reputation it has right now, you’re a fool. Period.”
Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, who just won the silver in the 100 and 200, tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug prior to the 2009 World Championships. Teammates Julian Dunkley and Steve Mullings have also been caught doping.
What are the odds that a tiny, island country suddenly dominates global competition…just because?
Bolt reportedly has been working with Angel Hernandez, too. Hernandez used to be called Angel Heredia, back when he was a chemist for BALCO and later “Source A,” who supplied the documents that helped convict Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, C.J. Hunter and Justin Gatlin. Gatlin just took bronze in the 100, behind Bolt and Blake.
Before the games in Beijing, Heredia told Germany’s Der Spiegel that, regarding the 100-meter final, “the winner will not be clean. Not even any of the contestants will be clean. There is no doubt about it, the difference between 10.0 and 9.7 seconds is the drugs.”
Usain Bolt went on to win that final with a time of 9.69.
Those still scrabbling for a foothold of belief in the imaginary will refer to the testing programs, citing that Bolt is among those who have no positives on record. This is, of course, ridiculous.
Jones always tested clean, as have others known to have cheated. Former World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound told Reuters yesterday that he’s particularly unhappy with the way Jamaican athletes have been tested.
“They are one of the groups that are hard to test, it is (hard) to get in and find them, and so forth,” he said. “We are starting to get better at smart testing, but there’s a long way to go, yet.”
Responding to BALCO owner Victor Conte’s assertion that 60 percent of London competitors were using PEDs, Pound admitted “He is probably more likely to know than we are. I hope it is not 60 percent, but it is certainly a lot more than we are catching.”
Independent minds covering the Olympics have a responsibility as healthy skeptics. Those working for corporate partners may not have the freedom to tell the truth to viewers, listeners or readers, but those who are not are indeed obligated to do so.
It is a shame that even now, after Ben Johnson, the East German program, Chinese swimmers and BALCO, that a preponderance of evidence fails to create a chorus of doubt. When coldly examining the dirty landscape of the Olympics and sprinting in particular, a clear mind can see overwhelming probability for what it is, and deal with it intelligently and honestly.
Anyone wasting words extolling the greatness of Usain Bolt should know better.