The friction between Carl Lewis and Jamaican sprinting reappeared in India and the Bahamas last week.
First, the nine-time Olympic champion Lewis was asked about Usain Bolt during a media tour in India last week. He was also asked about Jamaican sprinting’s recent doping issues.
In one interview, Lewis was reported as saying of Bolt, “He needs to back up now and maybe respect me a little bit more.” The question referred to Bolt saying in 2012 he “lost all respect” for Lewis after Lewis made comments such as this to Sports Illustrated after the Beijing Olympics:
I’m still working with the fact that [Bolt] dropped from 10-flat to 9.6 in one year [personal best of 10.03 in the 100m in 2007 to a world record 9.69 in 2008]. I think there are some issues. I’m proud of America right now because we have the best random and most comprehensive drug testing program. Countries like Jamaica do not have a random program, so they can go months without being tested. I’m not saying anyone is on anything, but everyone needs to be on a level playing field.
Lewis was also asked about Bolt and then Jamaica’s doping issues in a TV interview in India.
On Bolt: “A lot of the things that he does and is able to do, there is no way an American could do. An American could not say, ‘I am a legend.’ … We would get crucified. It’s a different era. You’re allowed to talk about yourself more now. It’s just something that we couldn’t have ever done.”
In August, the World Anti-Doping Agency said “serious issues” were raised in a report that Jamaica carried out one out-of-competition drug test in the five months leading up to the 2012 Olympics.
That report proved Lewis’ comments after Beijing somewhat prophetic, comments he referenced in the India TV interview.
“A couple of years ago, I was attacked, especially by the Jamaicans and Usain, about my comments,” Lewis said. “But all of a sudden when what I said was true, everyone went silent. I think their issue should be, let’s go back and ask them [Jamaica] to show that they’re doing what’s supposed to be done because I don’t know of any country that’s had as many positive tests in the last three or four years than their country.”
Several sprint stars failed drug tests last year, including Jamaicans Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, American Tyson Gay and Trinidad and Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste.
Campbell-Brown was cleared due to flaws in test collection procedures and possible contamination of her urine sample. Powell and Simpson were suspended 18 months but have reportedly appealed.
Jamaican sprinters at last weekend’s World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas, responded to Lewis.
“He [Lewis] has been talking a lot of smack,” Olympic 100m and 200m silver medalist Yohan Blake said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. “Even the other day in India, he said some things about Bolt, but we know we are clean, and we know we are good for the sport. We feel like we always have something to prove. We are taking all his records. There is no more for him.”
Blake and the Jamaica 4x200m relay team at the World Relays broke a world record held by a group that included Lewis from 1994, wiping Lewis’ name from the outdoor track and field world-record book.
Bolt and Lewis will continue to be intertwined going to the 2016 Olympics, where Bolt could tie the record for career track and field golds. Lewis and Finnish distance legend Paavo Nurmi each have nine. Bolt has six.