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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Beijing 2008: Discovering Usain Bolt

Discovering Bolt: Who is Usain, and should we be surprised?

Well, halfway into the athletics programme of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and the name on everyone's lips is Usain Bolt. The man with the most appropriate name in track and field (a close second is Philip Spies, who was a South African javelin thrower..."spies" is the Afrikaans word for javelin) has electrified the Beijing Olympic stadium, setting two world records to claim the 100m-200m sprint double.

He became the first man in history to break BOTH 100m and 200m world records at the Olympic Games, and when you consider the caliber of athlete who has gone before him (Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis), that is an incredible feat. But more than this, it's the manner of his victories that has set him apart: He won the 100m race celebrating over the line, pumping his chest and playing to the crowd, and the 200m race was won by 0.5 seconds. Truly incredible performances.

It's led many to suggest that Bolt is the "Greatest ever". He may well become that, but it's a typical case of hyperbole "in the moment", as people do tend to get slightly carried away with such incredible performances as they happen. We'll wait until he adds some longevity to his list of achievements - a world championship title, maybe another Games, and then he'll certainly add his name to a list that includes those of Owens and Lewis.

There's no question, however, that when Olympic historians make the DVD of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, they'll have a choice between two "faces" of the Games - Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolt. So who is this guy? And should we be be surprised that he's taken the world of sprinting and turned it upside down, breaking records while celebrating, beating times that were thought to be "unbeatable"? There are some tricky issues that need discussion (doping, rearing its ugly head once again, though we don't have the answer to that one), and I thought a post "Discoveing Usain Bolt" was in order.

Bolt's history: Not entirely "from the blue"

Usian Bolt has had "world class" stamped all over him from a very young age. He was born in 1986, and actually turns 22 today (the crowd sang "happy birthday" to him after his 200m victory yesterday).

According to the IAAF Biography on Bolt, the following table shows his progression in performances from the age of 15. (These times seem to vary from one source to another, so I confess that I'm not 100% confident in them, but I've tried to triple-check everything for accuracy)



The times Bolt produced as a teenager are extra-ordinary - a sub 21 second clocking at the age of 16, and the youngest person to ever claim a medal at the World Junior Championships speaks of some enormous natural talent.

Time progressions

What is interesting is the progression in times over the years. This has relevance for the doping debate, because Bolt has, by virtue of his dominance, now been placed directly in a spotlight of suspicion, such is the world we live in today. We know that sudden, "unexplained" performances are an indication of doping, though finding proof is another story.

Looking at Bolt's progressions, I think it is interesting to see how rapidly his times were falling during his teenage years - a 21.81 at age 15 became a 19.93 at the age of 18. That certainly does predict some impressive times later in his career. An 18-year old who runs 19.90 is quite conceivably a 22 year old running sub-19.5 seconds...could he have been on drugs at that age already? Even the hardest sceptic would not think it likely.

But then Bolt kind of hit a few snags - injury problems were predominantly responsible between 2005 to 2007, and he had a string of disappointing results at major championships. He failed to advance beyond the heats in Athens, and he came 8th in the Helsinki Final with an injury. It seemed that Bolt had reached something of a cross-roads. The three years between 2004 and 2007 produced an improvement of 0.18 seconds. The three before that (2001 to 2004) had given him 0.88 seconds.

We now know what happened at the cross road, because in 2007, he had something of a "breakthrough" year, winning silver behind Tyson Gay at the Osaka World Champs, and he was really the clear second best in the world over 200m last year.

Bolt's explosion - 2008

2008 brought with it a quantam leap, in sprinting terms, anyway, as he suddenly jumped into the next level with his world record of 9.72 seconds over 100m in New York. The rest, as you'll all know, is history, and he's now the dual world record holder.

So can we tell anything from this progression? Well, he's clearly incredibly talented, a junior with a remarkable record, which suggested he'd be a star on the track one day. It's very difficult to use this for anything more than suggestive purposes, because you never know what the ceiling is. Bolt's incredible junior performances, and his rapid improvement from 15 to 18, might be nothing more than a symptom of early physical development. Then again, they do suggest that Bolt is a naturally-exceptional runner, whose future has always been promising, and that the times he's produced in Beijing lie on the journey he began as a 15-year old.

But the big jump forward in 2008 is, for many, a flag that initiates a rather cynical debate, one which unfortunately holds no obvious answers. It is possible, given his early progression, that he was always going to run this fast. The "blip" in the middle might be solely due to injuries and perhaps a lack of focus in those years. Who knows?

Doping: The difficult question

As mentioned, though, the cynics point to his spectacular performances as "proof" of doping. One of our commenters said "This guy is juiced to the gills. You've got to be a complete idiot to not realize it."

While we can appreciate where he's coming from, it's not an entirely helpful way of putting the debate across. In fact, it's destructive to the debate. But unfortunately, the debate would be incomplete without confronting this particular issue, so let's turn our attention to this issue now.

Don't blame Bolt, blame the cheats before him

First things first, when the issue of doping comes up, don't shoot the messenger. Rather save your bullets for Ben Johnson, Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, Dwain Chambers, and the countless other cheats who have defrauded you (and Bolt, by association) in the past. The sport is unfortunately tainted - there are no major sprint champions in the last 30 years who have escaped suspicion, and many have been caught or confessed.

So Bolt is guilty by association, which is of course not fair. However, because it's become impossible to prove innocence, we rather default into a position of "implied guilt", and we doubt spectacular performances. Marion Jones proved that NEGATIVE test results are meaningless by passing more than 100 tests in her career, and so the fact that Bolt has passed 11 doping controls this year is almost irrelevant to the debate.

Similarly, Bolt (or any other athlete) can appeal to our consciences and human trust all they wish, but Jones, Montgomery, and the many other drug users who have been caught after forcefully denying that they ever used drugs have shown that athletes can be world-class actors too. So while Bolt may deny doping, and do so sincerely, the athletics loving public are at the point where they've seen it all before. Once bitten, twice shy, so to speak.

Now, Bolt might well go on to join the ranks of cheats, if he's ever caught. But until then, I'm prepared to go out on a limb and say that I believe Bolt is less likely to be doping than any sprinter before him. That may be naive (perhaps I want to be naive on this one, it beats cynicism), but I honestly get the perception, watching Bolt run, that his advantage lies not in the power and strength of sprinters before him, but in his co-ordination and some level of neuromuscular advantage which I must confess I can't fully pin down.

So while it is a 'bald assertion', Bolt alone doesn't arouse the same level of suspicion, partly because of his appearance, his running style, and because his prodigious talent as a junior doesn't create the same doubt one would get from the sudden emergence of a sprinter.

However, Jamaica's dominance in the sprint events doesnt' do Bolt's case any favours. Jamaica have now won EVERY SINGLE short sprint at the Beijing Games - the 100m and 200m titles for both men and women belong to Jamaicans. In fact, out of a possible 12 medals, Jamaica now own 4 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze. They also have the 400m hurdles champ for women, and should win the relays too. For such a tiny island to dominate to that extent is generating a great deal of suspicion, thanks to the events they happen to be winning. One argument is that the people are just "born sprinters", naturally endowed with some gene that allows them to run faster than anyone else. But then, the same gene pool has been there for decades, and Jamaica has never been this dominant. Good, yes, but not to this extent.

So I for one am dying to know what is happening in Jamaica. I'm not suggesting they're cheating, but whatever they are doing, I'd love to know, and to implement it elsewhere.
At the risk of losing my scientific objectivity, I do believe it to be possible that they might be so dominant without doping. But while I think that, there's this nagging voice at the back of my mind reminding me of just how many major champions over 100m or 200m have been dopers, so why should this be any different? Success as sprinting is an automatic "flag", thanks to the exploits of Marion Jones, Ben Johnson and the like. So while it's not a specific slight on anyone (regardless of where the medals were headed after Beijing, the same debate would be in play), it's a flag that will cast even more scrutiny on Bolt's performances...Let's hope this flag denotes coaching excellence and great genes, not systematic doping.

But returning to Bolt, we have to wait out to see what his future holds. As I said, I am less sceptical of Bolt than of any other sprinting champion, and don't believe that he is doping. I may be proved incorrect (and "idiot", even, according to some), but I think there comes a point where you have to view performances with a bit less of a cynical view, until provided with reason to do otherwise.

So what then, is the key to Bolt's brilliance? As mentioned, neuromuscular factors are surely involved, I believe. I've not seen such an elastic runner before, and I suspect that Bolt's advantages stem from a superior stretch-shortening cycle function, which allows energy to be stored and used more effectively. We know from research that power output is proportional to the amount of energy that can be stored and released from the muscle-tendon junction during the muscle contraction. Add to this certain anthropometric measurements, and perhaps there are justifiable, credible reasons why one athlete can run a 19.30s time naturally
.

Who knows? The only thing we do know is that if Bolt is one day tainted or caught, it might well be one of the biggest blows the sport has ever taken. Let's hope that day does not arrive.

Ross


95 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece.

The only thing I would add is that Donovan Bailey ('96), Linford Christie ('92) and Ben Johnson ('88) were all Jamaican born.

That two of them served drug bans is neither here nor there - they all left Jamaica as children - but maybe it's just socio-economic factors that mean Jamaica are holding on to their best talent these days?

Also, I think we have to consider the possibility that if one Jamaican athlete is doping, it doesn't necessarily mean they all are. After all, many of the Jamaican meddalists have come through the US collegiate system and train in the US. Julien Dunkley, the relay selection who tested positive after the Jamaican national trials and was dropped from the squad, has by some accounts never been involved in the sport in Jamaica - he in fact was coached at one point by none other than Trevor Graham...

Anonymous said...

I have read that Jamaica does not have an independent doping agency, therefore off-season doping is more plausible. Any merit to this theory?

Anonymous said...

I believe that the IAAF conducted out of season testing there themselves.

david said...

Ross I must compliment you on a great article. Prepared in such a short period of time you mirror most of my feelings and sentiments about Usain Bolt.

USA must be a very unhappy sprint camp at the moment; losing out big time in the 100m and 200m and then cocking up both men's and women's 4 x 100m relays.

Looking forward to your men's marathon preview.

Dave

Anonymous said...

I'm the guy who said he was juiced to the gills, so let me clarify. It's been my opinion for some time now that certain sports are simply rife with PED's at their highest levels and that you can not hope to compete at an elite level, much less win, much less set world records, much less set them an apparent ease, without doing them yourself. I believe many of these athletes would just assume not do them but realize at certain points in their careers that they have no hope of doing what they've always dreamed of doing if they don't give in, so large is the advantage of those who already have. I think the culture created within these sports facilitates an almost frighening, some might say pathological, ability to lie about what is occuring. Marion Jones didn't just lie, she filled her lies with an articulation and passion that astonishes knowing what we now know. I also beleive that designer steroids are far ahead of testing procedures and are about to get much farther ahead of them.

I don't think there has been a World or Olympic sprint champion that didn't do this stuff over the past 20 years.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for the visit and the clarification. Trust me, I hear you loud and clear.

If you look back on cycling posts we've done (especially in last year's Tour) and some of the articles we've done on Track and Field, we're right there with you. And you express the position very clearly when you say that the culture allows these cheats to articulate their dishonesty with such conviction.

So there is this nagging feeling, which I hope is clear in this post, that whenever we see extra-ordinary performances, we're seeing doping in action. But I also think that sometimes, people can defy that belief, and I hope (more than I know, I must be honest) that Bolt is one such case. Perhaps it is naive (I feel that it is) to think that perhaps he might be clean. Who knows?

But you're right, the times we live in dictate that we have to default to the "guilty" position, and then try (in vain) to prove innocence. I don't know the answer to it, but I do believe that some clean athletes exist - whether they can be champions is another story. I hope so...

Ross

P.S. Thanks to everyone else for comments, I'll respond a little later, perhaps tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaica_at_the_Olympics

Jamaica has always done better in sprinting that would be expected from a small island nation. If you look at our history, you know that only the strongest slaves survived, the conditions were so harsh during that period that they had to keep bringing slaves from Africa to replenish the supply.
In addition to that Jamaica is a very mixed country, the genetics are clearly no surprise.
Why now, well as one Jamaican said, now that the American cheats cannot cheat, Jamaica is showing what they can do.

Anonymous said...

If they are all doping then does it really matter?

What about the Speedo Racer, is that not a type of Doping?

Is Mr Phelps doping?

Get over it, little Jamaica is wiping the track with the US for the time being. This may change, but for now, that is the case.

Why ruin the joy of people who for the most part don't have the resources that the US does. Let them have their moment in the sun, if the athletes are dirty time will tell, until just sit back and enjoy the show.

Let's see Bob Marley was famous and from Jamaica, he was taking drugs ergo, everyone who is famous from Jamaica must be taking drugs? Give me a break!

I don't think Usain is doping for another reason, he just did not seem to care that he had broken the 100m record, he was only running the 100 so he did not have to run the 400. He is competitive and wants to win, but he does not strike me as one that will do whatever it takes to win.

I had my doubts about Phelps, who was under so much pressure to succeed, but after I read an article about how he was coached I understand that he is just a freak of nature, as is Bolt.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

You're right, Jamaica has always done well, exceptionally well given its size.

But when was the last time Jamaica had the gold and silver medal in the 100m? And the gold and silver in the 200m? And four out of the 6 medals in the 100m event? And the 400m Hurldes title?

If you answered "never" to the above questions, you'd be right.

Point is, no one is questioning that Jamaica is full of outstanding sprinters, because we all know that. So you're being overly defensive. But regardless of what Wikipedia is saying, the 2008 Games are an anomaly. That DOES NOT mean they are doping - I made that very clear in the post. But it means somethign is different, and I'd love to know what it is. It's a red flag.

Tell me this much - if the Russian women won every single women's event from 400m right up to 3000m Steeplechase, would you be suspicious? Of course. And so people are fully entitled to wonder the same about Jamaica and its sudden sprinting prowess, without being discriminatory against any country.

One final point - you say that the American cheats cannot cheat. Yet the times being run by the Jamaicans are FASTER than any Americans have ever done. The Americans have not gotten slower, it's Jamaica that's gotten faster. So how does that fit? All just interesting discussion points, worthy of debate...

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi to the next anonymous poster

At the risk of dismissing your comment, have you even read the post? Or did you stop when you saw the word "doping" and just assume that we have condemned Jamaicans as drug cheats and dismissed their achievements. I specifically wrote that the Jamaican success DOES NOT mean they are doping...

We welcome debate, but really, when you come out with a comment like "Bob Marley was famous and from Jamaica, he was taking drugs ergo, everyone who is famous from Jamaica must be taking drugs? Give me a break!", then your whole argument is lost, because you're unable to debate the merits of the case, and instead allow the otherwise interesting debate to degenerate into a "xenophobic" one.

That is not what we're about - we have condemned Marion Jones, Dwain Chambers, Russian Women, Danish cyclists, other American sprinters. This is another issue for debate, regardless of whether the people involved are Jamaican or any other nation.

But where i do agree with you is that Bolt may well be a freak of nature - but then that was in the post, as you may have read...

Ross

Anonymous said...

Great post - for me too it sums up my own feelings. He seems clearly to have a natural advantage and natural talent: if he's doping then I doubt he's taking anything that the other finalists weren't on.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I would not be suspicious of any team until I was given reason to.
For Jamaicans this is no surprise, we were just wondering what took so long.
The Chinese have swept all diving medals, and look at what Phelps has done in the pool.
I would be surprised if a country with no established history of excellence in a sport did that well, but not of one that has always done well.
Did it occur to you that the Bolt effect, could be what is motivating these runners, on both the Americans who are imploding and the Jamaicans who are exploding?

In swimming I think all but 3 records were broken, that to me is more suspicious than Jamaicans sweeping the medals.
It is not a matter of xenophobia, just ignorance.
If you consider how small and poor Jamaica is, their athletes are not just good, they are amazing and have always been.
My point is simply that if you are going to question Jamaica in sprinting then you have to question America in swimming.
While your article is initially all praise, it leaves the reader (who may not have had these suspicions prior to reading) with the idea, that the whole Jamaican team is tainted because they are doing so well. That to me is unfortunate and unfair.

Anonymous said...

A lot of vagueness and misinformation.

I'll not dwell on about Usain Bolt, however I must come down on those who write illogical theories like slavery (which was undoubtedly much harsher in Jamaica compared with other Islands and the US South) being one of the reason for producing sprinters.

A large part of Jamaica's current dominance in sprint can be attributed to a sport program at Jamaica's University of Technology created by former San Jose State sprinter Dennis Johnson who wanted the athletes to have a chance to mix sports and training as he had done in the USA. Also, because a lot of athletes returned from the USA system exhausted and thus didn't progress as expected.

Sprinting is in the lifeblood of Jamaica psyche in much the same way as football is to the Brazilian. Much like the arrival of a Scottish rail engineer, Charles Miller in 1894(?) who introduced football at the port of Santos, the foundation for Jamaica's sprinting prowess was laid in 1910 colonial Jamaica when an event called Champs was created to discover and develop the best school sprinters and it is now Jamaica's top sporting events that draw crowds up to 25,000 and involved very young kids.

The UK Guardian has a piece about it, a very revealing reading:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/aug/17/olympics2008.olympicsathletics1

brentcu said...

Good article, I particularly liked seeing the data on Bolt's times over the years. Thanks.

The only thing that rang odd was putting Carl Lewis in with Jesse Owens. Carl failed drug tests in his time.

See my home town news rag.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi again anonymous

Again, you're not reading the full story. Go back in our archives, and find the posts we did on swimming. You may be surprised to learn that we did in fact cover the debate about the records being set in the pool in Beijing, doping and all. And yes, Phelps was mentioned. Might I mention that I am not American, for what it is worth. I'm in fact South African, and I couldn't care less about patriotism and national borders and sympathy stories about who deserves what.

My only interest is the debate. I've introduced one, which you've contributed to well, so mission accomplished. So if we could just establish a rational explanation for the sudden dominance, because the story that you've always done well doesn't hold - when last did you win 7 out of 12 medals in the short sprints?

And if you honestly believe that readers are not asking the same questions we're covering, then your head has been in the sand, because the whole world is talking about it - it's been the topic of 3 radio interviews here in South Africa, and we're so distant from the debate it's almost untrue. Our objective is to present the possibilities, not to make judgement. Yet in this case, I have made a judgement call - I've said that I believe Bolt is clean.

And the Americans are not imploding - they're running just as fast as they always have - you look at the times from previous world champs and games, you'll see that the US women in particular are as good as they have always been. Except of course for Marion Jones, who was better. But then she was doping...so was Florence Joyner. And just about every other major winner.

So you make the very mistake I mentioned in the post - you attack the messenger. Rather reserve the blame for the cheats who've compromised the whole sport.

So if it's ignorance, then please enlighten the world by explaining it, rather than just lobbing out accusations of bias against your nation. No one wants the sport to be tainted, we want to celebrate. But it would be irresponsible not to open this debate. If you have answers, other than the theory that one athlete is pulling all the others. Where do they train? Why does the Jamaican Olympic Committee not have a state-run anti-doping programme? Who is the coach? Where are the athletes based.

I deal in information, so if this is ignorance, the forgive me. But the whole world is talking, and it'll be a tough ask to defend it against everyone until that information is provided...

Ross

Anonymous said...

AS for my Marley comment, it was simply to show how absurd guilt by association is.
As I looked at the long and sad list of dopers in sport, I noticed some that took Marijuana, I think they should have been given extra points, rather than being banned ;)
I don't know, I think I am getting to the point where I feel that if it does not affect their health, just let them do it.
Ensure everyone has equal access to it and that if they are doing it they tell you they are.
Apparently they are all doing it anyway, so this way all that would change is that we would know, you know, like those Speedo suits :)

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous (we're losing track of which "anonymous" is which here - how about a name??)

Thanks for clarifying. I hear you on the legalizing of doping. That debate has come up before in previous discussion, even during the Games. I'd give you the exact link where we discussed it, but for the life of me I can't remember which post it was!

One thing about the Speedo suits - we were very outspoken about the suits when they first came out - we said they should be outlawed, partly for the very reasons you put forward, that "technological doping" and "chemical doping" were equally bad for the integrity of the sport. So we said they should not be allowed - you can find those posts in the archives if you wish. I guess the same goes for chemicals.

Ultimately, if you allow all drugs, the situation would probably be worse. Transparent, yes, but I think athletes would start dying and someone has to take responsibility for trying to control it, even if that control is a facade. Imagine if 4 world or Olympic champs per year were forced to retire because their health was affected or worse, they died in season?

So I think the idea of control is good, it just needs a lot of work to catch up...

Thanks for the continued discussion!

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi to the next "anonymous" (we're going to have to start handing out numbers soon!)

Thanks for the insight. Since this debate started, yours is the first real insight into the sprinting conditions in Jamaica and the culture of the sport there, so it's very interesting indeed. And thank you for the link, I'll certainly make use of it in a future post.

One thing I'm still interested in is the structure of the sport right now - I'm under the impression that facilities are not world-class, though I suspect they are acceptable, but I know little of the athlete's movements during the year. Are they mostly based in Jamaica, do they spend more time in the USA? We know a great deal about how the Kenyan training camps and their travel plans work, but Jamaica remains something of a mystery.

This post, ironically enough, was intended to dispel some of the mystique around Jamaican sprinting, and in particular, to provide some evidence that Usain Bolt was not a complete surprise, but was always destined for great things. I think many have seen it as an "attack" of sorts, or unfair, when in fact, the intention is to cast some light on the situation - I've always seen that information leads to understanding, so thanks for providing some information on the question!

Ross

Alan Sleath said...

Michael Phelps vs Usain Bolt for title of Greatest Olympian ever.Bottom line contact/impact sports must rate better.Isnt there a ratio of 1 to 4 ie Cycling ,swimming vs Running therefore Bolt = 2x4=8 plus relay to come.Science can be quite baffling. If i recollect pre Bejing all the hype concerning pollution,humidity,fatigue etc etc, yet countless World an Olympic records have been set.

Teddy Atlas said...

OK this is the formerly anonymous guy who said Bolt was juiced to the gills. I'll pick a name.

Wouldn't professional bodybuilding provide a pretty good case study for what would happen if you allowed PED's? Those guys are walking chemistry sets.

Anonymous said...

I am Jamaican/Italian/American/Bajan, your being South African (unless you are black) does not give me much comfort.
This will be my last post, as I have made my points already.
1) I don't think the Jamaican's are doping, if they are, no more than anyone else.
2) Unless you have been to Jamaican and watched them train, then your words are in ignorance.
3) I am tired of the accusations, which is why I posted, they can ask the questions, but until it is proven then that is all they are, questions
4)The slavery argument one is not illogical, just a response to the question about the genetics in the article, the training in current times is the most likely reason for the success, you can't argue that descendants of slaves have done disproportionally well in sprinting, I speak as one myself.
5) I think I have touched a nerve and I am sorry, I am just fed up with the doping accusations.

6) By imploding I was talking about the 4x100 meter relay, they imploded!

Anyhow, those who doubt will always doubt, I am just enjoying the show. I am also irritated about how "surprised" everyone is about the Jamaicans. But that is neither here nor there.
My opinions are as valid as yours and there is no need for personal attacks.
I will now go take my head out of the sand and enjoy some more sports, without assuming the worse and let the chips fall where they may.
I think Phelps is clean, as are the Chinese and all the other people that have worked so hard to get there. If I am proven wrong then I will be saddened regardless of where they come from.

If that is putting my head in the sand, then so be it, I will keep it there :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't see your reply to my comment as I was writing mine, I apologize for the South African (giving me little comfort), I was irritated but it was uncalled for.

Anyhow, this really is my last comment.

I know your article was in good faith, I am just tired of the cynicism.

I was really liking your article until the comment about the Jamaicans not helping him by winning.

As a successful black in the states, you get a little tired of people questioning your achievements, when you work your butt off to get where you are.

So sorry for a little projection.

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics and lets all hope they really are clean.

BTW: I said to permit doping, only if it does not harm them, not the only one not reading carefully :)

Take care

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi again

No problem, to any of it. Like I said, debate is the name of the game. The only reason I brought up the South African thing myself is because I'm aware of the USA-Jamaican rivalry, and I've seen a great deal of "mudslinging" already from the USA to Jamaica about the Beijing achievements. In any event, considering what happened in the relay today, unless there are drugs that help you hold onto a baton, the USA has few excuses for the next four years! Bragging rights are firmly in the islands this time around...

And then finally, I've gone back and actually edited the article, because you're right, the section on the Jamaican system is "ignorant" - I haven't been, so I don't know what's going on. All I was saying is that given the "culture" of sprinting over the last 20 years, it is always going to be a "flag" when a nation produces so many dominant athletes all at once. That's not a comment on any nation, but rather the state of the sport, and that was the intention. So I've edited it, compromised to try to be less "attacking", because you were correct.

So anyway, thanks for the visit, let's hope that we don't need a follow up post breaking bad news, but maybe even celebrating a world record in a relay in two days' time...?

Cheers
Ross

Will said...

Have you seen the cool histogram from the New York Times?

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/21/usain-bolt-its-just-not-normal/?scp=2&sq=Usain%20Bolt&st=cse

Anonymous said...

Ross,
I'm anon #2 who posted the link to Guardian piece. Wheew! Call me Mane for now. Didn't realise that there are another anons.

Jamaica is a very poor country, so certainly in no way is the standard anywhere near that of the USA or even Cuba. The latter has much better amateur athletic program - I believe the best in the whole of the Caribbean. The gym I heard was very basic - not surprising especially in the context of low funding. I have lot of friends from Jamaica and at least one group of my inlaws are from Kingston though I have no real idea about the condition and movement of the athletes. However I do know that Powell and Bolt are two of the most prominent athletes to be based in Jamaica and they trained exclusively on the islands instead of the USA. This is undoubtedly due to the scheme developed by their coaches and Jamaica University so they could both work and study to acceptable standard. In fact if I recall it correctly, Bolt was offered a scholarship (?) to study in the USA but he turned it down, instead he does his studies in Jamaica. I knew about Bolt as long ago as 2001 or 2002 via some of my Jamaican friends and they mentioned about him being a potential Olympic winner in 400m and 200m, most of all they talked about him being as some kind of extraordinary talent *relative* to the others in his age group.

Almost all of the Jamaica athletes essentially came out of a British style school system and it's reflected in the events like the Champs. Bolt, Powell and many of the Jamaican came through this system. It's only when they leave the island and go to USA then their movement especially off-season does I habour any real doubt. There is no serious program like those in East Germany and Eastern Bloc countries gearing toward maximising performance illegally or otherwise. In order for athletes based especially in Jamaica to get any benefit from doping they would have to be involved with coaches who in turn could be linked to program much like how BALCO system was.

Anonymous said...

FYI:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0628/p01s01-woam.html

http://www.smh.com.au/news/athletics/dont-patronise-us-says-jamaican-chief/2008/08/17/1218911461530.html

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080819.OLYJAMAICA19/TPStory/Sports

http://www.slate.com/id/2197721/

tim said...

As usual, a great article. One thing i think may be missed is either a discussion on the "emerging unveiling" of the drug cloud that has hung over the sport since the mid 60s.. This in itself "could" be part of the reason we are now seeing a more filtered genetic pool of talent coming from jamaica- and it could havein fact always been there. Now, with the testing regimes and the addition of retrospective testing we could be seeing either athletes truly competing drug free, or using substances that have effectivity much below that of times gone by- to escape detection. This would in effect remove much of the doubt over the jamaican's dominance in the sprints..and past performances support this theory (in that if they've always been clean, versus non clean, theyve still done very well).

Owen Anderson said...

Has anyone found a detailed, insightful article about the coaches who work with the successful Jamaican sprinters? Would love to hear how the coaches set up training, year-round, for these amazing sprinters. What kinds of progressions are they using? What sorts of strength training?

Anonymous said...

It's all about "project believe" here ... Bolt like Phelps. Illusions don't need any prove ... That's the new Olympics, the new sport.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI Teddy

Yes indeed, walking chemistry experiments! THe other "sport" where doping is so clearly prevalent is WWE (professional wrestling). There have been a few deaths there, some in tragic circumstances. I wonder if anyone has statistics on death in bodybuilders.

I recall than in the mid-1990's, in the peak of the EPO boom in cycling, about a dozen young (20 to 28) cyclists died in their sleep in Europe. That kind of instigated the drive to develop a test (among other factors, of course) and control the use of EPO, because up until then, doping was relatively unregulated, certainly by the teams (and the Federations are complicit, make no mistake)

ROss

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Will

That is pretty cool, thanks for the link. If the action from Beijing slows down, it's a definite for a future article, thank you!

Then to anonymous, that's very helpful information, thank you. I guess my concern is the possibility of a Balco-like system going on in the islands - I agree that this is likely the only way they'd get these drugs to athletes, if at all.

A lot of people have now written in and said what a magnificent junior athlete Bolt was, as was the poitn of this article. It's never "proof" per se, but I've always believed that if you can find extra-ordinary talent as a junior, it represents one of the strongest arguments AGAINST the doping one. There are Kenyan 17 year olds, for example, running 27:30 for 10,000m right out of school. To me, it's not inconceivable that with maturity and some training, they could do 26:30 as adults.

The same may well be true of Bolt - an incredible junior, who fulfils potential as a senior, and so I'd certainly say he's got more chance than most of being clean. I do wish, however, that he'd get himself onto "Project Believe", where he volunteers to provide blood samples year round (like Tyson Gay is on) - he has nothing to lose from doing this. And also, I am under the impression that Jamaica doesn't have an anti-doping programme, and I'd like to see that set up.

But until proven otherwise, I'm still of the opinion that they're clean, but my background and training make me sceptical!

THanks again!
Ross

Andrew said...

"And the Americans are not imploding - they're running just as fast as they always have - you look at the times from previous world champs and games, you'll see that the US women in particular are as good as they have always been."

Well, it is worth noting that you are implicitly holding the track "constant" in your assertion above.

Consider:
If (1) the Chinese have designed a superior track, which I think is a fairly safe assumption; and
If (2) everyone is now dope-free, which is probably a bit more tenuous assumption;
If (3) Jamaicans have more natural/nurtured talent, which seems like a fairly plausible assumption;

THEN, it would be reasonable to assume that the Jamaicans would go faster than the Americans on a faster track. (By the way, it is important to also bear in mind that a faster track could explain away some of Bolt's speed, but not his dominance.)

This whole argument, of course, is predicated on the assumption that the Chinese track is markedly faster. The international media has not covered track design in nearly (if at all) the same level of detail as it did with pool design. Anyone have any thoughts on this possibility?

(Finally, as another aside, did anyone else notice how the American media essentially fed the public the intimate details of Phelp's training regime and history (e.g. genetic advantages, caloric intake, diet, distance/wk in pool, ADHD etc) before he really began winning medals? I assume this was done--with much success in my opinion--to preempt the obvious accusation that he had to be doping. Interestingly, while apparently similarly talented as a youth, there was no major media effort to similarly "explain" Bolt's training regime and history. I assume this is because, coming from Jamaica, Bolt doesn't have the same level of sponsorship necessary to feed such stories to the media. In order to be taken seriously, it seems essential to have a ready made story of one's success.

--Andrew

Andrew said...

"And the Americans are not imploding - they're running just as fast as they always have - you look at the times from previous world champs and games, you'll see that the US women in particular are as good as they have always been."

Well, it is worth noting that you are implicitly holding the track "constant" in your assertion above.

Consider:
If (1) the Chinese have designed a superior track, which I think is a fairly safe assumption; and
If (2) everyone is now dope-free, which is probably a bit more tenuous assumption;
If (3) Jamaicans have more natural/nurtured talent, which seems like a fairly plausible assumption;

THEN, it would be reasonable to assume that the Jamaicans would go faster than the Americans on a faster track. (By the way, it is important to also bear in mind that a faster track could explain away some of Bolt's speed, but not his dominance.)

This whole argument, of course, is predicated on the assumption that the Chinese track is markedly faster. The international media has not covered track design in nearly (if at all) the same level of detail as it did with pool design. Anyone have any thoughts on this possibility?

(Finally, as another aside, did anyone else notice how the American media essentially fed the public the intimate details of Phelp's training regime and history (e.g. genetic advantages, caloric intake, diet, distance/wk in pool, ADHD etc) before he really began winning medals? I assume this was done--with much success in my opinion--to preempt the obvious accusation that he had to be doping. Interestingly, while apparently similarly talented as a youth, there was no major media effort to similarly "explain" Bolt's training regime and history. I assume this is because, coming from Jamaica, Bolt doesn't have the same level of sponsorship necessary to feed such stories to the media. In order to be taken seriously, it seems essential to have a ready made story of one's success.

--Andrew

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Tim

Thanks for the visit, compliment and feedback.

I hear you on the drug issue. My only response to it is that we're not seeing a slipping of the standards. If the Jamaican dominance was solely due to Americans getting slower thanks to the clamp down on their own drug use (which is acknowledged to have been wide-spread), then we'd expect the winning times to be slower than before.

But instead, Jamaica are beating the Americans despite the US athletes performing pretty much to their normal level. The men's case is exceptional, because of Bolt, but if you look at the women's 400m hurdles, it was the 6th fastest time ever, and fastest in maybe 8 or 9 years (barring the world record, which is a very suspect time). So while this is not my case for saying they're using, I'm just not convinced that it's a weakening that is causing this dominance. It's something else, and based on the comments, there's a lot of reason to suggest it's simple talent and coaching, and not the cynical drug issue...

Ross

Anonymous said...

Another world record for the Jamaicans and Lightning Bolt =)

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I must commend the writer of this original for an objective perspective that; I must admit, I am not used to seeing, apparently on this issue the ‘scientific’ approach is one of the best approaches out there… but there are other factors. Being a Jamaican ( both by birth and residency), I will try to explain the success of Jamaican sprinters on a whole, not limiting myself to the extra-ordinary success of Usain Bolt.
Jamaica has had a heritage of sprinting since the 50’s (see names such as Herb Mckinley and Donald Quarrie) and this has resulted in Jamaican society adopting track & field as a part of our culture… moreso an endeavor in which we should do the best. As such we have incorporated it into our schooling system from a very early age (case in point Usain Bolt’s exploits at 15). I know people with children that are actively enrolled in track and field at age 10.
We have several track meets for both boys and girls for the year eg. Boys champs, girls champs, western relays, comet relays etc. that take track almost throughout the year… a feat made possible by a tropical climate (there is no winter in Jamaica). The sprints are events that need no specialized equipment for a financially strapped country to be faced with… all you need is grass with white lines (in contrast a sport like the pole vault has never been a good event for us because of the facilities and equipment required.
It should also be noted that the longer events like the 1500 meters will also get neglected because the duration makes it more unsuited to the timetable of our track meets (not to mention our insatiable need for excitement as a people which no one should deny).
Our nutrition is also different… filled with organically (and non-hormone treated) food filled with starches and proteins… and oreo’s don’t sell very well at all and our parents don’t drive us to the mall (we actually do quite a bit of walking, and this goes for the entire Caribbean). Usain is one of the few Jamaican athletes I’m sure with an insatiable taste for chicken nuggets.
Of extreme importance though is the fact that the iaaf has gotten extremely strict on Doping since Marion Jones (now holding blood for up to 8 years for future testing) and now there are countries who usually do very well who can only now muster average performances.
I remember what Florence Griffiths Joyner looked like, I remember what Marion Jones looked like too. I’m pleased to see that athletes in speed events no longer have this unrealistic musculature and that women athletes no longer have those steely faces.

Keep the blood for 8 years… give us our credit now.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Dear Anonymous

Thank you for the kind and constructive arguments. Your words are very helpful, and they echo what many have been saying in this thread of comments. I think that Jamaica, much like Kenya and Ethiopia in the middle- and long-distance events, might hold some interesting data for the likes of us sports scientists to "tap into in the future".

You're quite right about the fact that the athlete "look" different now compared to in the past. Certainly, in the 1980's, the women were very different. Jones was similar, and that may well be telling.

So thanks for your input, and I trust you are basking in the credit due after your latest golds and world records from Beijing today.

Regards
Ross

JCAK said...

congratulations for the great site you have, please someone could tell me whta was the top speed in Usain Bolt 200m world record? I have the theory that It was a little faster than the top speed in 100m also a complete analysis of this run as you done with 100m will be great! JCAK

JCAK said...

congratulations for the great site you have, please someone could tell me whta was the top speed in Usain Bolt 200m world record? I have the theory that It was a little faster than the top speed in 100m also a complete analysis of this run as you done with 100m will be great! JCAK

Anonymous said...

Well most of the American Sprinters ran much slower than their times in the American National Trials..

None of the women went under 11 seconds for example.

So saying that they can't cheat anymore is somewhat a possibility..

Again i would like to add, as a Jamaican myself.. we are a very poor country.. i doubt that we can even afford these "new high tech drugs" anyways.

I fully support the idea that our speed is due to genetics.. We are also naturally aggressive people to add on to it.

We are only at the forefront now because we have only just begun to be able to afford equipment, and the knowledge of our coaches have increased over the years(thanks somewhat to the Americans). More High school Students are taking the dive and doing sports now, since their parents are more able to afford things like extra food to support their activities.

Track is standard at all schools in Jamaica. Even at the Primary level.

The speed was always inside of us..We are just now being able to develop it further.

* Some of the African Americans' ancestors were slaves that were shipped from Jamaica. These were the ones that were more "manageable" All the aggressive slaves were kept in Jamaica and Haiti. Sadly you can see it in the crime rate also..

Bruce said...

Great article. Enjoyed it and the comments.

I must say, I find it hard to thoroughly enjoy 'the moment' of the great performances in Beijing when there is some suspicion they might be drug assisted.

Especially so after the Russian 'drug bust' which indicates that 'federation approved' doping is possible. Is it true that WADA still don't know what drugs the Russians were on, just that the urine was tampered with? I'm still amazed at the 8:58 steeple WR - how good was that performance?

Anyway, I just hope the Jamaicans are clean - if so, they are wonderful runners.

3five said...

Hi Ross having read a couple of your post on The Lightning Bolt, I was wondering if you are related to one Mr Josef Mengele or indeed one of his idol, why are u so interested, like many of your fellow psychopathic science colleagues in his ability. I hope Bolt doesn't fall ill while overseas because I can see you lot with your needles and scapels ready to collect samples instead of healing him al la Bob Marley. What really is the motive of this site...are you trying to create some super mutant human species because you are clearly no sport enthusiats and your scientific claim is fairly weak base on your lack of research in the subject matter you're dealing with. So let me set a few records straight being an ardent athletics fan from Jamaica land we love. As you may well know now from the guests who have responded Jamaica's tradition in the sprints at a world class level goes back to the 1940s with Arthur Wint George Rhoden, Herb Mckenley and Les Laing then followed by Lennox Miller father of Inger Miller, Don Quarrie and Bert Cameron just to name a few all of whom in turn made significant contributions back to the sport in various capacity upon there retirement from the sport as athletes. Now Jamaicans are very impressionable people - much like the characters in the hit tv series Heroes - who takes pleasure in emulating there heroes. just research the jamaica music scene and check the names of many of the artistes of the 1970/80s and you will see what i mean - as well you will find more clues to your answer by listening to some of the music by Mavado(on the rock, overcome), Munga honorable and Sizzla (solid as arock)to name a few. These athletes set the trend which today's stars now try to emulate. all children start sports from kindergarten stage and athletics is the main ingredient and from that early stage it follows a natural progression through to the olympics standard when they turn adults. Our high school championships are massive events on a par with the NCAAs and then they go to America to compete against american schools at the Penn Relays, now if you look at the penn relay history books you will see that Jamaica has dominated that event from it's inception it's only when our athletes migrate to america that a lot of them fall by the wayside because of the demands of studying, training and trying to earn a living. Many Jamaicans choose athletics as a way of escaping poverty via a scholarship to a US college/uni to get a better education/work, but it was mainly an illusion because the scholarship didn't cover the athletes welfare and they had to perform academically as well, which wasn't the domain of many of the top high school athletes hence they fell away at college while the also rans at our high school champs tended to rise to the top at adult international level because they were more inclined to get it right academically. The list of top notch talent that faded away after our champs because of injury/ educational ability is endless, prime example in my time were Daniel England, Donovan powell (Asafa Powell's brother), Rudolph Mighty - went to the 92 olympic at 19 and Nicole Mitchell who also went to that olympics at 18 but more significantly slammed Marion Jones out of sight at the world juniors sending Marion into early retirement - that's when she took up basketball b4 returning to the track all drugged up - Nicole career was curtailed due to injury. As a result of these failures the shift in policy started whereby athletes started to stay put in Jamaica with Michael Mcdonald (brother of olympian Beverly Mcdonald) the first star of the training in Jamaica practice who eventually got sponsorship from one of the top companies in Jamaica. this eventually led to what is now happening with athletes by and large staying in Jamaica. Now about our success Jamaica was in full flight by the 1988 olympics we were only robbed of medals by the cheats, Merelene ottey and Raymond Stewart were the fastest in the world from 89 onwards when it was not a major championship year, once the big events came up the needles came out and we became also rans, if you researched properly you would see that the cheats aside we would have gotten medals at those championships but because of the cold war jamaica did not stand a chance, what with america and the communists pharmacies going at it helter skelter. America even blatantly robbed Merlene in 1992 and all these half dead athletes who came back from the grave to win medals al la Gail Devers and Jackie Kersee not to mention Flo-Druggist Griffiths and the wolf who cried 1st Carl Lewis - so pumped up with drugs that he new Ben was on something much better after getting beat, don't even mention Kevin Young and I am still not sure if Michael Johnson ain't a cyborg. This in turn forced us to multiply our efforts - after all that's what records there for - unfortunately a few were misguided like the Americans/russians and signed up to the pharmacies. Now you mentioned that the americans have been by and large running to their usual standard at these olympics - I think you should give back your PHd and start again - Wallace Spearmon 19.69 PB Walter Dix 19.7s PB and Xman Carter 19.6 PB noticeably absent from Europe/major championships with one of the lamest excuses ever and again don't even let me start with them girls. Jamaica hasn't got proper testing facilities i agree but having a lab remotely Balco-esque you're having a laugh, we can't even afford a proper gym never mind and all the mad scientist reside in the so called 1st world countries - long may they stay there - you need to do some travelling all our manufactured medicine may well be imported for all I know. Why Jamaicans and the carribbean are doing so well? THE PHARMACIES ARE TEMPORARILY CLOSED AND AS A DIE -HARD JAMAICAN ATHLETICS FAN LONG MAY IT REMAIN SO!!! about F#@%ING TIME too.

Jen said...

Everyone here in our athletic community on Long Island in the US is talking about how well the Jamaicans are running during this Olympics. The questions being debated around here are: (1) are the Jamaican sprinters largely training in the US for US colleges and teams? and (2) the word is that there is no off season drug testing there so what exactly is going on? So far there haven't been any positives in Beijing reported from the medalists on the track so I would like to assume that they are clean, now. Why is it that Jamaica is not subject to the same level of testing that the rest of the world seems to be and if we are truly going to make an impact in keeping sport clean, then WADA, the Olympic Committee and other major international running organizations need to step in to make sure there are standards for controls worldwide so that there is a fair playing ground for all. That being said, my naivety really wants to believe that everyone is clean running that track so good for Jamaicans and maybe it will spark the US athletes to work even harder over the next 4 years.
Looking at Bolt's progression over the years, he appears to be progressively improving since he was 15 so the world records shouldn't be such a surprise based on what he has been accomplishing.
Keep the debate going, it's great!

Herc said...

A great article!

I agree with the general conclusions, and my judgment call about whether or not Bolt is 'juiced to the gills' is also a clear negative: No he isn't. I believe he's clean as a whistle.

In general I don't understand people who take the position of the poster who says so. It's not a position, it's a religion. There aren't any facts at all that indicate doping: no suspicious behaviour, no suspicious tests, no suspicious findings, no suspicious career, no suspicious rashes or other symptoms, nothing.

The only facts of the matter are his excellence and the fact that there is no way to know for absolutely sure that he isn't taking something.

Jumping straight from that to stating that 'he's juiced to the gills, and any idiot can see it' is completely unreasonable in my opinion. It amounts to nothing more than a religious belief that anybody who ever achieves anything is a cheat. That is not only false, but also completely destructive.

It's a hassle, I know, but we have to look at each individual case before we pass judgment. And I completely agree with the article when it states that the facts of this particular case give us every reason to believe he is clean.

If he's clean then why haven't we seen a sprinter like him before?

Nobody knows.

Personally I think it's due to economic factors. Let me elaborate on that a little bit.

When we need to get a job done, no matter what it is, it's a question of getting the right people to do it. When the job is to lower the world record in the sprints, I believe that we're still learning who the right people are, and that economic factors have prevented us from finding out sooner.

Once it was thought that a white people were the right people for the job. This turned out to be an illusion created by an economic reality that prevented africans from participating. Once they got in, the job got done much better. Soon it became clear that for sprints we need west africans, for distance events we need east africans.
Where in the world do we have the largest numbers of west africans with opportunity? In USA, whose black population is large and mostly of west african origin. Consequently USA have dominated the sprint events for many, many years.
Now, suddenly, with the advent of Asafa Powell and especially Usain Bolt, it seems that TALL west africans are the right ones for the job.
Why has noone discovered that before. My guess is this:
Tall, athletic, black americans have much, much better opportunities elsewhere. They go where the money is: they play basketball.
A economically responsible black american only considers track if he's not tall enough for NBA.
Maybe that's why we thought that a sprinter should be only 6 feet tall.
In Jamaica, where the genes are also suitably west african, the tradition favors running, not basket. So, in spite of his height, Usain chose track.
But why hasn't he come out of Jamaica before? Because there aren't a lot of jamaicans and only recently are they beginning to have proper conditions for their talents.
But what about West Africa itself? I'm sure that once they get the same thing going as in Jamaica we will see new little Bolts coming out of West Africa, too, in much the same way we see the kenyans and ethiopians produce distance runners.

In short:

I think he's so much better than everybody else because he's, for the first time, exactly the right kind of guy for the job. I think this explains his excellence much better than the drug theory, for which there is no evidence at all, not even reasonable suspicion.

If he was competing with 7 other guys who were also 6½ foot tall well trained west africans, then I'd be slightly more apprehensive.
With the competition he's facing today? No, he's not taking anything. Why would he. He doesn't need to.

This is one judgment call I'm not afraid to make.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi there 3five

You've got to be kidding. Seriously, I read this post over and over and i wonder to myself if this is a joke. In over a year, we've never had such a vitriolic comment, with so little basis.

You ask me "what the purpose is of this site?" - read our mission statement above and you'll find it. But our target audience is not someone who can come here and label sports scientists as "psychopathic" and accuse us of being related to Josef Mengele...

Do you have any idea how ridiculous and offensive that is? Frankly, it's disgusting, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

And then you offend me by suggesting I go back for a PhD again - I think it best that you don't visit the site, since it offends your sensibilities so greatly.

Or, perhaps you might actually show some consideration and thought instead of launching into your blind tirade.
Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI JCAK

Thank you, that's very kind. Like I said in our event report on Bolt's 200m race, we'd LOVE to get hold of the splits from the race. It would make a fascinating analysis if we could superimpose his speeds from the 100m on the speeds from the 200m. Unfortunately, haven't been able to find those splits, so if anyone out there has them, please let us know!

As for his top speed, I suspect his 100m speed is probably higher, because we know that a maximal sprint produces a top speed after 50 to 80 m. If you look at Bolt's 100m race, you see exactly that. Now, in the 200m, that point comes on the bend, which means it's slightly slower (to stay in the lane), and usually, the athlete doesn't manage too much acceleration in the straight.

But this is all conjecture, only the data will solve the puzzle, and I'd love to get hold of it...

Thanks for the visit!
Ross

Owen Anderson said...

So far we have attempted to discover Usain by centering our discussion around drugs, genetics, and cultural factors. Does anyone have information about his actual training?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hello Tim

Thanks for the long comments - we write long articles, so long comments are more than welcome!

I know your last comment was the long one in response to the article on Bolt's 100m. I think you also posted a comment or two on the "Discovering Bolt" article (not sure if it's the same "tim"), which is where we kind of tried to look a little more objectively on the issue of doping and Jamaica. It got quite a few aggressive responses from readers, and I got the very obvious impression that many of those reacting defensively were Jamaican and feeling attacked by Americans. So yes, I agree with you that the USA-Jamaica "patriotic" war is the source for much of the slander going on.

That's why I tried, to the one guy, to identify myself as a South African (rather than American), to attempt to "neutralize" the debate somewhat...

The thing about the US-bias towards this whole performance issue is that the media is largely US-based, so I guess without there being any specific bias, we'd almost expect there to be more articles from the States than anywhere else. Then, in addition to that, I am sure that there is a great deal of US-pride at stake, and they are fighting back using the media as a battle-field. What we're seeing, then, is a battle for perceptions, and the media chooses to sensationalize things like this to sell papers. It happens often, and kind of gathers momentum - one paper says this, another picks up on it, and repeats it with more "insight" and so on. That's why papers are now picking up on stuff from December - it's topical, controversial and guaranteed to attract eyes, so they run it....

So it doesn't surprise me that this perception exists from within Jamaica that the 'bullies of the USA' are now ganging up on them, because that is what is happening (deliberately or not).

I will add, however, that a good number of "neutral" fans or followers of the sport are also asking legitimate questions without wishing to slur the Jamaicans. I certainly don't think that all the questions about Jamaica are motivated by a desire to expose them as cheats. As I tried to explain, the Jamaicans are guilty by "association", which is unfair, but that's the price we are now paying for years of rampant drug use (by all sprinters, US, Canadian, European). It's just a fact of life that victory in sport results in suspicion. So a lot of times, people are quite legitimately asking "what is going on?". I guess if it was Russian women, and not Jamaican sprinters, the world would be asking the same thing (admittedly, with a historical precedent). No matter who wins the Tour de France, the men's 100m title, the weightlifting gold, or even the marathon, people will wonder. Some events are more suspicious than others, and the 100m crown is one. A world record holder is even more scrutinized. Two world records, well...now it's front page stuff! And it's not necessarily vindictive, because the concern is quite genuine - people just need to know.

So I agree that some instances are just negative and cynical, others have genuine concerns. I'd like to think that our posts (particularly the one "Discovering Bolt") are genuine efforts to appreciate the problem. People clearly don't see it that way, hence the rather scathing responses we get - I never considered, for example, that I'd be compared to Josef Mengele or told to get my PhD again. People who are trying to defend Jamaica try to do so with emotion and passion, which is frankly meaningless, and simply feeds the accusations that will be levelled at them. I firmly believe that the way to answer this question is to find facts - Usain Bolt's history, his training, his lifestyle, his support group, culture of sport in Jamaica etc.

And many of the great comments we've received have done exactly that, so it's become clearer and clearer, in the course of the discussion, that there is a strong likelihood that Jamaican sprinters are dominating the world clean. And that's fantastic, and I really do believe, like you, that they are not doping (I also want to believe it). Unfortunately, those constructive comments are interspersed by idiotic ones, like the one from 3five.

But yours are great, and thanks for visiting!

Ross

Sean said...

Hello again... I'm the "jamaican of birth and residency" from before. I'd like to add a few interesing facts for eveybody to ponder... (I for one have found most of the comments of non-Jamaicans in this forum non-threatening... rather politely speculative).
There is an excellent case for genetics in Jamaica being a strong athletic force. For instance, one of the men on the Bahamas National team in the Olympics is Asafa Powells cousin and I doubt that he was born here. Asafas older brother is an former olympian as well. Sanya Richards of the U.S. is Jamaican... and while she did start track down here, she left when she was 12. My own brother while never becoming a premier sprinter has run 11 seconds and My mother made it into the newspapers locally in the 60's. Several Athletes in international sport are of "Jamaican Parentage"... I've forgotten those names. Patrick Ewing formerly of the New York Knicks left Jamaica at 17 and learned Basketball before college even though he's 7' 2" tall... in his time he was one of the most athletic big men out there. What is considered Americas #1 track & field invitational for juviniles "The Penn Relays" is utterly destroyed by Jamaicans every year and has done so for more than 20 years now... please research it so it doesnt sound like I'm bragging. I've heard that Usain Bolts stride is 9 ft long... science says that if his legs are able to move at the same rate as an athlete with shorter legs, he will cover more distance... and Finally... As phenomenal an athlete as Usain Bolt is, chances are that America has had at least 1 or 2 of him... all that happened is that he went out for wide reciever in football or point guard in basketball... thereby never acheiving his full speed potential.

Just some thoughts put out in good faith for us to consider.

Sean said...

I'm sorry just a couple more interesting fact (the post got too long for me to keep my points in check).

As for the almost overnight improvement in Jamaican sprinting... in 2004 right before the Athens Olympics an external factor crept into what before was a very sterile environment... Sponsorship... Usain bolt rcvd sposorship from an ailing Puma trying to compete with Nike and Reebok as did one of the girls... one of our telecom companies Digicel, (an Irish company I think) also jumped in... it facilitated better training facilities and the hiring of better physiotherapists and allowed these athletes to spend more time training (and not working a real job) as well as allowing them the opportunity to attend more international meets getting better competition... this factor skyrocketed after the performances of the girls in Athens and the emergence of Asafa Powell... Jamaican athletics is only going to get better.

And Usain Bolt has had 2 major injuries lasting between 2004 and 2007... (I think it was lower back problems)... so these times were while he was still way below 100%... why these injuries?... because he was still growing likely.

Owen Anderson said...

Re the idea that Usain-Bolt's stride length is nine-feet long:

In Usain's 100-meter world record, his step length averaged 2.44 meters per step. That's about 8 feet per step or 16 feet per stride.

Everyone else hovered around 100/44 = 2.27 meters per step, a 7-percent diminishment (compared to Usain). It is tempting to say that Usain won the race because of his long strides.

Step length is a function of the force placed on the ground during each contact, but it is also a variable which depends on height – longer limbs naturally lead to more-expansive strides. Usain stands 6’ 5”, according to media reports, or about 1.96 meters. The third-place finisher in the Beijing 100, Walter Dix, is only 5’ 9”, or 1.75 meters.

Among well-trained distance runners who are competing in a 5- or 10-K race, step length averages about 1.03 times height. The situation is quite different in the world of elite sprinting. During the Olympic-final 100, Usain’s relative step length was 2.44/1.96 = 1.24 times height. Walter’s relative step length was 2.27/1.75 = 1.30 times height.

So we can see that Usain did not win the race because of his extraordinarily long strides. In fact, his steps were relatively shorter than Walter Dix’s, when expressed in relation to height.

Actual velocity in a race is a function of just two things – step length and step rate. Walter finished the race in 9.91 seconds to get his bronze medal, and so his step rate was 44/9.91 = 4.44 steps per second. Step rate is usually expressed in steps per minute, even when a race lasts less than one-sixth of a minute (like this Olympic final), so let’s figure Walter’s step rate that way: 4.44 steps per second X 60 seconds per minute = 266.4 steps per minute. That’s putting them down on the ground!

Usain’s step rate was 41/9.69 = 4.23 steps per second. Bringing that figure up to standard, we have 4.23 X 60 = 254 steps per minute. He was laying them down, too, but his step rate was actually 4.7-percent lower than Walter’s.

Usain covered more absolute distance with each step, so Walter had to try to make up for that by yaking more steps per second. He worked valiantly – and ran so explosively that Usain’s step rate was 4.7-percent smaller than his.

If step length had been equal – or in fact if Usain had managed less than a 4.7-percent advantage in step length over Walter, the race would have gone to the little fellow. Walter’s problem was that Usain’s absolute step lengths were 7-percent broader. From elementary school math, we know that 7 minus 4.7 = 2.3 (here, we are simply subtracting 4.7, Walter’s advantage in step rate, from 7, Usain’s edge in step length). And 2.3 percent was almost the exact margin of difference between Walter and Usain (.023 X 9.91 = .228 seconds, just a whisker above the actual .22-second disparity).

el rolio said...

Hey guys, lovely comments, and I must admit I have focused on them first after scanning the article. I will read after I post.

Ok, I am a Jamaican myself but I like many of my generation and afterwards left after high school for college in the US (and UK for some).

Anyway, my sports were swimming and basketball. Only to play ball we actually had to build a court for ourselves. And this was in 96! Where we played high school champs were in a lil court on the grounds outside of the national stadium. Big deal for us, mostly because we were able to share hallowed ground with the track people. Actually half my ball team came over to play from running relays and playing footie.

Before I digress too much, my point is that track dominates life. k-6, and then 7-12 is all about track primarily and as others have pointed out (and is now beggining to emerge in the media - also check puma running site for a nice vid) the high school champs are the biggest event, selling out our stadium. I mean talk to many an adult male in jamaica and they DIE hard represent for their alma mater. My dad (from Kingston college, one of the top track schools) still to this day regularly attends the champs events, and he is nearing 60! My cousin's min reaction to our golds is about how many olympians are form his high school (Wolmer's).

Ok that to me attributes to part of the "nuture" argument. As for the "nature", well it is indeed true that over our history the fastest, strongest, most aggressive slaves were kept in the larger caribbean islands. But thats only part of it. The other part is the genetics, and all the sprinting through the generations (as previously mentioned). To this I don't have much more to add but I do know that before the olympics there had been some massive scientific studies that are either available now or to be released. They were first studying the east africans then came to study the jamaicans amongst others for the west african heritage fast twitch speeds.

Other comments: Jamaica had setup an anti doping system officially but it was only announced right before beijing, so it doesnt serve to answer any doubts. However, the IAAF has tested our atheletes significantly before the olympics, that is fact and has been reported. I also agree that bolt should join that programme you mentioned Gay is on, he has to do it to allow his effect on the sport to continue un-tethered.

And that brings me to a big point I think may have been overlooked. Bolt himself was going to do this well, the trak helped him as he keeps mentioning, and others since the 100m was the fastest ever. But Bolt's antics, amazing wins etc served to motivate the other jamaicans. I honestly believe our women would not have done as well if it weren't for the role model, the bar that was set by bolt. Our newspaper has reported it a few times that they all tried harder than ever before, riding high on the wave of excitement and pride. Its just like when you have those super basketball, or football games, where one competitor brings the best out of another because of the amazing things that happen. Indeed isnt that one of the best things about sports? especially for viewers? We watch to see the amazing happen, for athletes to go beyond their training, draw on their spirit and push themselves. Not a scientific agument but I believe some of our other medals and due to this effect. Also, it is to be said that form what ato bolden did, it inspired the caribbean as a whole. Then with asafa doing so well for years, and being home trained, jamaicans started to believe they COULD do better than also-rans to the US.

Lastly, the thing about our training. Yes its cheaper to train for sprints and all. But our facilities aren't that terrible. We have the weights, the nutrition, the track regime. I agree with earlier posts that major sponsorship by puma yeaaaars ago helped spread the chances to others around the island, opening more doors sure. But the key thing my dad keeps telling me as an advent watcher, and as echoed in the press: This is a homegrown field. The first time in our history the majority of our olympians all live and train at home. The simple fact is that the US collegiate system grinds our people to the dust. They bring up the kids, and run them to shreds. The majority of US olympians have always been out of hte main system, separating a lot of their training from schooling. But I do believe in what I am hearing from home: that the not so simple fact is that its been better for their emotions. Now I always knew I would travel and live around the place, and I'm mixed and come from a middle class home. Lets say I transitioned well in the US. But even with that I faced enough issues that it was and has been damn stressful. Not to mention the separation from family and friends. Lucky enough I travel often to recharge. But for our athletes - Bolt is form the country, the BUSH. Shelly-Ann is from one of the most dangerous ghettos in kingston, prolly the western world even. They keep saying it and its making sense to me - to be able to stay at home, in your own culture, see family and friends, eat food your are comfortable with and not have to worry about money (per se) makes a very big difference.

So, I dont even know how long this post has been and its not strong arguements but in summary:
• first (almost fully) homegrown team sent to represent. makes a difference.
• its nature and nuture
• bolt and other sprinters before him have inspired the athletes. dont forget trinidad has done quite well these games. And who would have thunk a dude with gold grills from the neth antilles woulda reached all those finals?
• do not underestimate how big track is to jamaicans. we are finding the best talent from early in high school and training them.

One thing I do know is lots of the questions posed by the authors in the comments will be answered soon. in the next few months expect to see many many articles from major media coming out of trips to jamaica to observe training, testing, eating, system, etc etc. All in good time.

el rolio said...

another link to add to the others above, not sure you seen it yet. Like i said, i look forward to the coverage in the coming months:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/olympics/2008/08/21/jamaican.dominance/index.html

Dee said...

Hello,
I am the anonymous from posts: 7, 8 and a few more later. I think this site will interest readers, it is about the genetics of Jamaican sprinters:

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/sport/olympics2008/news/article_1424025.php/&quotActinen_A&quot_Jamaicas_secret_weapon__Feature_

I am not sure the link will work, Google either Actinen A, or the title of the article if it does not.
"Actinen A," Jamaica's secret weapon (Feature)

The last link in my FYI post also discusses this.

Just one more thing (I know I said I would not post again, but I do have to mention this) Jamaica and the Caribbean are not exactly the technological capitals of the world. If they are doping, then either they are very good at hiding the drugs they are taking (possible, although I think at least one would be caught by no), or they have a drug that has not yet been found by the Americans, Russians and other industrialized nations with vastly more resources and desire to win than Jamaica. That to me stretches credibility.

Anyhow, I went back and read your article again and I find it fair and the questions legitimate.

The more I read posts about how Usain's victories have allowed people to believe in athletics again and the excitement and pleasure that he and the Jamaicans have given people all over the world (40% of Italians tuned in to watch him win the 200m), if he does turn out to be a cheat, then everyone would loose, if he is not, everyone wins.

BTW he donated 50,000 USD to the Chinese Earthquake Relief fund. If he is a cheat, at least he is a generous one :)

I will keep reading the comments as this is turning out to be an interesting debate and will post links of interest as I find them.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

No need to apologize for posing again - this site exists for people like you!

Thanks for the links, and keep them coming. I can't obviously always use them directly, but I'll try to integrate them into debates in the future, and this is as much a learning experience for me as it is for anyone else! So thanks!

As for the technology, you're quite right. The infrastructure required to pull off doping is one of the reasons why I am of the opinion that the Kenyans who are based in Kenya are also NOT doping - they don't have electricity and so they can't store drugs! So that's a compelling argument. It's not impossible, of course, to have one individual bring drugs in, but it's a lot more difficult than in a state controlled system like Russia/the Eastern Bloc (dare I say China?)

As for the interest, yes, Bolt has been fantastic for the sport, and it's a marvellous occasion when athletics knocks the usual sports off the headline news. Here in SA, we love rugby (a small sport, played by maybe 8 countries seriously) and Bolt's performances actually have taken top spot over rugby - I can't recall a time when that happened! So long live the enthusiasm, and you're right, we'd all lose if it turns out to be flawed. So let's hope not!

Keep those links coming, thanks!

Ross

Anonymous said...

As a proud Jamaica, I am very happy that we have finally made our mark after years of knocking at the door. why isn't anyone looking at the fact that since there is more focus on doping, the use suddenly forgot how to compete. Maybe we finally have a level playing field. After years of being cheated by competing with athletes who were on drugs (Marion Jones, etc) we have finally gotten through. Please let us enjoy the success. If anyone has cheated it will come out eventually.

Owen Anderson said...

When Dee mentions the "Actinen A" gene, I believe he is referring to the alpha-actinin-3 (ACTN3) gene. alpha-Actinin-3 is expressed in fast-twitch muscle fibers and is responsible for generating force at high velocities.

However, it is extremely unlikely that the alpha-actinin-3 gene is the Jamaican "secret weapon." For one thing, there is no evidence that this gene is found in higher frequency in Jamaican sprinters, compared with their Afro-American counterparts.

Also, a cool study was carried out recently by researchers from the Institute for Neuromuscular Research in Sydney, Australia. This research looked at the frequency of ACTN3 in 198 Ethiopian controls and 76 elite Ethiopian endurance athletes, 158 Kenyan controls and 284 elite Kenyan endurance runners, 60 Nigerian controls and 62 elite Nigerian power athletes.

The conclusion? A deficiency in alpha-actinin-3 does not have a significant influence on performance.

Ref: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Vol. 39 (11), pp. 1985-1988, 2007

Dee said...

Actually there might be evidence that there is more of this in Jamaicans:

..."A combination of nature and nurture. Runners of West African descent—which includes Jamaicans as well as most African-Americans—seem to be built for speed: In 2004, they held all but five of the 500 best times in the 100-meter dash. (East Africans, such as Kenyans and Ethiopians, rule the long-distance field.) Several biological factors may be coming into play here. One study conducted in Quebec in the 1980s found that black West African students had significantly higher amounts of "fast-twitch" muscle fibers—the kind that are responsible for short, explosive bursts of action—than white French Canadians did. (So far, there is no evidence that even extensive training can turn slow-twitch muscles into fast-twitch ones, though moving in the other direction is possible.)

Exercise physiologists at the University of Glasgow and the University of the West Indies are currently researching the genetic, nutritional, and sociological factors behind West Africa's sprinting success. The team has just begun to analyze the genetic data it has collected, but preliminary findings suggest that 70 percent of Jamaicans have the "strong" form of the ACTN3 gene—which produces a protein in their fast-twitch muscle fibers that has been linked to increased sprinting performance. That's a significantly higher percentage than in the United States, where about 60 percent have the gene variant. A further 28 percent of Jamaicans are heterozygous for the gene—which has the same effect, but to a lesser degree—compared with about 20 percent of Americans. The rest, by contrast, have the "null" form of the gene that produces no protein at all, apparently making for lousier sprinters but perhaps better endurance runners. (Ironically, a sample of Kenyans showed a lower incidence of the null form than Americans.)"

None of this is to PROVE that they are not doping, but to provide alternate reasons why Jamaicans do so well other than doping (and have always done better than expected).

What this actually says is that while the gene might explain speed, it does not explain endurance. Anyhow the results are preliminary so you can't say much at the moment, but they are interesting.

Dee is a she, by the way.

As a scientist watching running in the olympics is a genetic wet dream as you see different body types and races doing well in the different disciplines as the times get longer, it is actually kind of cool.

As for the statement that " it is impossible to improve that fast", I am not so sure, I used to train in the martial arts, one of the dojos in which I trained had a practice of higher belts grabbing lower belts by surprise and seeing if you could get out of the grip. Once I was so focused on what the Sensei (teacher) was saying that I failed to notice the black belt behind me. At the time I was a yellow belt, although I had previous training so was actually better than that. Anyhow, the guy grabbed me and in a second he was on the floor looking up at me in astonishment. That should not have happened, I still don't know how it happened, and was not able to replicate it after the event.

I am a mix of many things, but for the purpose of this argument I claim my Jamaican ancestry (the advantage of being a global mut). Any sport I do, except ironically running at which I am lousy, I learn much faster than most people, Once I won a sparring competition in which I was the only woman and not the highest belt rank, and trust me they really didn't want me to win, normally I am very mild mannered, but you don't want to piss of the Jamaican in me :P.

What is interesting is that (and I know this sounds contradictory but it is not), when I first walk into a new sport, I am not the fastest one to learn it, but once I get going I go very fast which has the unfortunate result in making other students, err not that happy:)

Yes I am saying that this is the same sentiment that is motivating SOME (not all some have valid reasons) people adamant that the Jamaicans must be doping, they might be right, but I still think that this is the real motivation.

This is the reason, many of the arguments about how they are improving so fast, don't ring so true to me, as I know that in my case it is a combination of working obsessively on something I like and good genes that results in this, not drugs or cheating or anything like that. As both a scientist and a former martial artist I also don't underestimate the psychological part of this. Lezak should have lost that relay, it was his will that won, not his muscles.

If it turns out doping is not to blame with the Jamaican athletes, then these other explanations can give some insight into what is going on.

Dee said...

I had doubts about Phelps but after reading an article about how he was trained, I decided to trust that he was clean until otherwise proven wrong.

After this article:

"By MICHAEL DONALDSON in Beijing - Fairfax Media | Monday, 25 August 2008
Wada boss defends Bolt

World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) director general David Howman says the Americans seemingly building a doping case against Usain Bolt should look at themselves first."

For me, the case is closed (based on the rest of the article, in which he makes some interesting points), until I have reason to believe otherwise.

The jury might be out on the others, but since none have tested positive, I am not going to worry about it unless they test positive.

Just out of curiosity, what would it take to convince doubters that the team is clean?

Anonymous said...

Seems the most logical conclusion of this thread is that "nuture" (vs. nature) is the key factor here.

Anonymous said...

Some very valid points were made. I am sick and I do mean sick and tired of articles that refer to Jamaicans as 'suddenly' dominating sprinting, out of the blue so to speak which casts doubt on their performance. What amazes me is that everyone fails to realize that we have always been present in sprinting but we could never win and guess why? Other people were doping and now that they not able to take the drugs that have robbed many of our great athletes like Merlene Ottey one feels the need to cast aspersions on our athletes. Did it ever occur to you that we are now winning because it's now a level playing field and we have always been better!

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I thank you for writing this piece, i think it is well written. I also apologize in advance for my horrible spelling. We cannot discuss this issue without mentioning the Jamaican people as a whole and there LOVE and adoration for track and field. Although these atheletes do train abroad, most of them go back to Jamaica regularly. As a jamaican, born and raised until the age of 9, track and field is engrained in the schooling system from a very early age. We are not as fortunate as the US/other countries to have other athletic outlets which may cost a little bit more to play. For track and field, all you need is your two legs and as young children in Jamaica, track is viewed as a possible way to finance higher education.
I think Jamaicans have a natural talent for track and field. A recent scientist in Kingston at UWI in Jamaica attempted to tackle this subject as well and looked at the muscle twitching fibers of jamaican atheletes compared to atheletes from other countries. Basically he concluded that the muscle twitching fibers of the Jamacian atheltes were faster compared to other athletes regardless of were the athelete trained.(now I apologize for not being able to provide a reference of some sort)
On the issue of doping, of course u never say never, but I am quite confident that Usain Bolt and the Jamaican olympic team are NOT using any steriods. Jamaicans can be very difficult people to understand, but we are very proud of what we can do well and take offense when others suggest that this is becuae of cheating. The Chinese are obviously avid divers, sweeping the medals for the most part in this area, which require strength, I hear no allegations of cheating/doping directed at the chinese. Okay, now I know I am rambling but the one point that i would like to make is that JAMAICA is a very small island, not too rich in wealth, however what we know how to do, we do it well and we are very protective and proud of that fact. Any Jamaican athelete who returns to Jamaica after a positive dope test will be looked down upon and i think if you get the opportunity to speak to any of these atheletes, there is a sense of accountability for your actions when an entire country is looking at you. Yes i know the Marion Jones of the world and Tim Montgomery of the world are also being looked at, but do not forget, Jamaica is a small island, smaller than many states in the US, and the accountability is greater.
Now I know naysayers/others will say well ", give me a break, Jamaicans are known for marijuana use, and couldnt possibly look down on drug use". But trust me, Jamaicans outlook on marijuana is quite different from an athelete who doped and had his/her medals stripped for that, that would not be a good look for that athlete. Well I hope I make sense, I just love my little island of Jamaica that is filled with such political unrest and crime at times, and I donot want this victory to be tainted with accusations that are probably entirely false.

Anonymous said...

People come to Jamaica in droves to see boys and girls champs, it is the mega sports event in the world for juniors.

Daniel said...

I loved reading through the post and all the comments. All I can add is that it proves (to me at least) that despite the media muscle and technological dominance of the developed nations, there are still many reasons to favour life on the islands and other down-to-earth spots in our world. For me, Usain Bolt's unrestrained joy and personality was the most refreshing part of his win, and the fact that he was enjoying himself and not highly strung must have contributed to his good form.

I really feel the tide has also turned and taller sprinters will start coming to the fore now, as has been mentioned.

Lastly, don't take 3five's more ridiculous and insulting comments to heart, he actually has a point, only he is wrong to take it out on you my South African brother. I personally think he was being rhetorical in the first paragraph before moving on to discussing the Jamaican culture.

BTW, what do you think we should focus on here in SA? Rugby is a big part of our culture, soccer like a Cinderella sport. But where do we have the most potential?

Rookie said...

Firstly, great piece and I've enjoyed reading all the comments. Thanks! I have a few links that I have found very useful in trying to understand how usain bolt has been able to do what he does and i've inluded those below.

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/kelly13.htm
http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/kelly15.htm
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1835420,00.html

From these i understand that it is likely that a combination of factors would contribute to his success (as with most successful athletes i imagine). genetics (height, large proportion of fast twitch muscle fibers...), hard work and training, as well as mental strength in the sheer will to succeed. anyways, just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

As much as the records in the water are unbelievable, I'm sure you've seen the break down of Michael Phelps' body. He wears like size 14 shoes, his lower body is that of a smaller man, and his upper body is that of like a 6 foot something man. He has the PERFECT (or almost) body for swimming and he even eats like 12,000 calories a day, and works it off. He must be doing tons of training for this stuff and I don't believe he doped.

Anonymous said...

First I haven't read any other post that you have written this is the only one. I hope you still come back to this page to look @ comments. About 1999 or 2000 the first time I laid my eyes on my fellow Jamaican before he took the world by storm was in 1999 or 2000 not exactly sure, but I do know it was at this event called "Western Milo Relays" held in Montego Bay, then it was being held on the grounds of Cornwall College (my former high school). On the top of stands sittng and listening to the cheers of fans of the sport cheering on their respective scho9ols. On my immediate left there were 4 young men looking anxiously not really saying anything. Then came time for the 4x200m race and one of them suddenly start shouting, wait until my friend takes the field (which he repeated about 3 more times) then said " seem deh" (translated - seem him there) Usain Bolt, he was outstanding on his leg of the race just as his friends anticipated but Herbert Morrisson Technical were eventual winners. From that day forth in the back of my mind I said " there goes a champion ". He's being doing this for years, those who may have never heard about him before all I can say is that, this young man is a true and competitive athlete. If he was from the US of A he would be glorified extensively, but because he is from a small Caribbean Island called Jamaica, he is being questioned. I read your article and my personal beliefs are YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN USAIN BOLT ONE BIT, you only say you do because you don't want to seem biased. You don't even know your track & field history. I see you as that journalist who hears about a story and runs and get what little information you can about it then you come blog about it.... I'm givin you one name to google or search olympic history on, Deon Hemmings, yes of course she's Jamaican. One final statement, " now that a certain substance is out in the "CLEAR" Jamaicans aren't playing second best to anyone on the track". Thank you for reading if you do ... reply post name as AREA CODE 876

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi everyone

Thanks so much for the continued debate on this post. Your comments are ALL appreciated (even the less thoughtful ones) and I apologize for not responding to every one, but unfortunately, "real work" beckons and I haven't made the time to sit down with considered replies! I'll certainly try to do that in the course of the next few days.

Some brief comments:

First, to the last poster (Area Code 876), I am sorry if your perception is that I'm out to "get" Usain Bolt. I'm afraid you are incorrect. This post was done specifically to try to address some of the scepticism that I was reading in the news about the Jamaicans. I therefore approached this matter as a scientist (not as a journalist, by the way, you're wrong there too) and analysed whether the progression of Bolt's times suggested he was capable of a 19.30.

My conclusion was that he was. Therefore, i am of the believe, until proven otherwise, that he is clean. However, as a scientist, I have an "obligation" of sorts to look at the matter objectively, and when this is done (I do not expect you to relate, since I have often experienced that patriotism clouds objectivity), the red flag that is sprinting success is clear. Therefore, this is a matter that has to be debated, not just ignored because of national pride.

But, my conclusion remains, and I'm not afraid of offending anyone. As you point out, this is the only post you've ever read, so it is presumptious of you to assume that this is my motivation. If you bother to read anything else on this site, you'll quickly recognize that I don't care a tiny bit about "offending" the sensitivities of people when I believe that an issue warrants discussion.

This issue warrants discussion. Let's face it, what was achieved by Jamaica at these Games was exceptional. But every Olympic Games since 1988 has been tainted by drug use. Therefore, ANYONE who wins a sprint title at the Games immediately is under suspicion. If you cannot recognize that, perhaps your own athletics history needs revision. Therefore, given the success of the Jamaican athletes, they must be discussed. Yet I chose to approach this discussion with data, with figures and some form of objectivity. Many of the comments I've received in response have been excellent - very helpful and thought out. Yours was too, because it again affirms what a talented junior athlete Bolt was.

But you end off with an allegation of "cheap journalism", which is also inappropriate, and i have to defend it - first, I'm not a journalist, but a scientist. Second, I know the history perfectly, thanks. So why don't you hit the books and tell me when was the last time Jamaica won FOUR gold medals at the Games? When was the last time that a Jamaican man held the world record over 100m? When was the last time you had THREE finalists in the 100m race? When was the last time you broke the relay world record?

I'm not raising those questions to cast doubt on the performances, because I believe, based on the very helpful replies from your countrymen and my own stats analysis, that Jamaica are doing this without drugs.

However, your own bias towards "history" is skewed by your starting belief. The fact is, Jamaica HAS always produced great sprinters. We know that, it's not even in question. But something is now different. Perhaps it's the lack of drugs being used by the USA. That is certainly part of it, but it doesn't explain the times being run - Bolt's times would have beaten even Ben Johnson on steroids by a long, long way.

So to me, being curious about these things and enjoying asking the questions, it's a debate worth having. If that comes across as not believing in Usain Bolt, too bad. I believe in the question, and while I believe Bolt is clean, that's no reason not to discuss it. So if you are not interested in understanding and discussing that difference, as opposed to resting on a legacy of sprinting that is not even up to the current level, then this site is not for you...

Ross

Anonymous said...

Smaller/(shorter) men normally develop physically earlier than a tall man - given Bolts height (6ft 5in) his times should reflect that he is still "growing" - & he should get faster as I dont believe his body has fully developed and it will get stronger and bigger.

Anonymous said...

One has to consider that athletics suffers more than any sport from a extreme dubious past. Unconditional appraisal of Bolt's performances, which point out just the opposite direction, is ridiculous. It would be on the contrary a blow to athletics if he's never caught.
Are we insane after experiencing Griffith-Joyner, Ma Junren's Army, even Michael Johnson and now Usain Bolt.

Daniel said...

Anonymous above, you lack any credibility whatsoever. your provocative nature might be waiting to be satisfied but the reality is you are just boring. It is not surprising that people with your kind of attitude fail to recognize talent but I still wonder what makes you feel jealous, ater all Usain is in a league of his own... or maybe if we knew who you were your motives would be made plain.

Frans Rutten said...

Reply to Daniel

My provocative nature as you speak has been satisfied quite a bit in the last decade. Apart from the numerous sprint scandals, note that there has been a huge decline in performance in a vast majority of athletic events. Beijing Gold Medal performances differ roughly 3,5%(one 15,7%) with current World Records, with the main exception of men's sprints of Usain Bolt and the Jamaican Relay team. A virtual all-time olympic contest would result in less than 30% Beijing gold medals. The year 2003 gave a sudden drastic drop in sub 10s sprints. Today sub 10 sprints aren't still common again. And suddenly there's a guy who might be capable of sprinting close to 9,50s giving utmost favourable circumstances. And with an endless line-up of official false and circumstantial false performances of mainly the past, I should unconditionally accept that Usain Bolt is a superhuman?
I'm a cyclist and I have trained exclusevely sprinting for 25 years on a practically daily basis.
I didn't register all my sprints (short/long), but it does exceed certainly a total of 100.000 sprints. My overall conclusion is that progression is of a gradual nature. Reproductivity is another matter. Performances in maximal exerted sprints differ accounting all factors hardly, always within the 1% barrier. Not unless you effectively make progress.
Yes, and I'm cynical. I didn't watch the 200m final (I trained), although I could easily predict a new World Record.

el rolio said...

here is another article that speaks to the point of them staying home

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080818.wolymjamaica18/BNStory/beijing2008/home

Daniel said...

Frans Rutten, you are comparing yourself to Bolt, using your experiences as the benchmark - do you realize this? Your post just comes across as pure envy imo.

I'm not saying your experience is worth nothing, and I'm not even an athlete. But world champions are exceptional, they go beyond average. The same happens in every sport, and often the most brilliant moments are surrounded by mediocrity.

In this case though, we had the fastest Olympic final ever with 6 runners under 10 seconds. And you saying sub 10 sprints "aren't common"?

Don't project your experiences on an innocent person, if anything you should really keep your cynicism to yourself because it comes across as sour grapes.

Frans Rutten said...

To Daniel again

World Champions are exceptional, but still certain physiological and even statistical laws and thus limits have to be taken in account for every human being. That's why my longitudinal experience should be worth much more than you can imagine.

Brilliant moments surrounded by mediocricy or not. In the long run the difference between world class athletes in higly accountable sports like athletics are minor, within the 1% range, unless..

The Beijing Final was slightly better than Athens 2004, but not if you count the best non-wining places. Place 2 to 5 go to Athens.
In an virtual all-time olympics final only two Beijing places would be reserved.

Sub-10 figures since 1996: 25-38-34-26-15-25-27-9-33-16-24-18-42 (Beijing 16, Powell 8, Bolt 9 in his first year). So I would still claim that a sub 10s is not very common (for other athletes as Usafa Powell, in 2006 and 2007 almost half of the totals).

Since we have seen that Usain Bolt is capable to say 9,60s or even better given the right circumstances, which were not the case in Z├╝rich tonight (20 degrees Celsius and slight adverse wind), I come to the conclusion that the gap between 9,60s and 10s is a unprecendented 4%, which in most so not all athletics events is a landslide. Note that I'm not talking of the 200m, the 100m skills didn't emerge until this year!

I'm not projecting my experience on an innocent person. I saw what happened in almost 50 years of athletics and cycling. Just read that the current world hour record holder Sosenka is caught by taken methamfetamine.

My nastiest moment ever is the 1993Stuttgart World Championships 1500m Final as the Chinese women suddenly rocketed off. I instantly knew that this was deadly wrong. A human body is an organism and therefore highly trainable. Very spectacular progression is possible, but did the Eastern Bloc primarely not prove that this can only go along very direct manipulating of the human body.

So virtually spoken a 16 year old girl (not at all affected by almost 3 decades of World Athletic Progression) would have won the bronze medal in Beijing, a year later the silver and another year later the gold medal. I enjoyed Heike Drechsler a lot during all the years, but I also know that there's no example which exerts the doping saga better. Although technically she's clean.

yardman said...

now that we have the data for usains's 100m sprint,Ross do you have the data for Asafa's 9.74s 100m?. it would be very revealing to most of the bloggers here. some may say bolt is beyond human limits and may suspect foul play in terms of doping. but if we could compare data i would say asafa is also capable of running sub 9.7s. this is not surpising to me. I am a proud jamaican and most of what is said in here; about jamaica not having any doping program is not true. the team has participated in countless test months before and right up to the games. jamaicans are simply fast just as the east africans are simply long distance runners. bolt isnt the only one doing well, we have veronica cambell who ran the fastest time in the last 10years and we also have melaine walker, the new 400m OR holder.
aside from that Ross; i would love to see asafa and bolt's splits on one graph if its not too much to ask. and for the non believers; Jamaica will be putting out people just as fast as bolt in the near future. his endeavors has made the whole country even more enthusiastic about sprinting and more talent will be crawling out of the wood work. so stay tuned! you are also free to visit to get a better understanding.

Owen Anderson said...

Dee, I'm sorry I called you a he.

Can you provide the ref. for the study which showed that 70 percent of Jamaicans have the "strong" form of the ACTN3 gene—while in the United States about 60 percent have the gene variant?

To make a case for this gene, I think we would need to look at populations of sprinters rather than the general pop. For example, do the top 20 Jamaican sprinters have a higher frequency of this gene, compared with the top 20 Americans?

It's doubtful that Usain has this gene, while no one else does.

By focusing on this gene by itself, we are in effect nominating it for super-gene status. Could ACTN3 by itself really produce a new WR, independent of the rest of the genotype?

After reading all comments, is it safe to assume that we know almost nothing specific about Usain's training?

Dawson said...

Ross

I can explain the 3 year inactivity
for Bolt.

After setting the youth world record and first and youngest to go sub 20 secs at age 15 Bolt grew about 1 1/2 to 2 Inches. He was weaken and his trainers had to back off his training regiment because he became injury prone.

Regarding your comment " So why don't you hit the books and tell me when was the last time Jamaica won FOUR gold medals at the Games? When was the last time that a Jamaican man held the world record over 100m? When was the last time you had THREE finalists in the 100m race? When was the last time you broke the relay world record? "

I am assuming you are talking about male 100m.

OK, but Jamaica regularly has three women finalists in the 100m. For 4 consecutive olympics we have had three women finalists. They usually get bronze or silver. Nobody notices you when you are placed 5th and 6th.


Have you ever heard about the Jamaican female sprinter Merlene Ottey?

Anonymous said...

MY take is that they are clean..all the jamaican runners. If they are not clean it is because they were not jamaican based. It is highly unlikely that small, poor jamaica, has access to the latest drugs that are way ahead of the testing, while super powers like USA, russia, ect has no access. I have been researching and Jamaicans have always been good in sprints, any track fan can see that they were always up there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great article and all quite interesting comments.

I'm not American nor Jamaican, but French, so no patriotic views on Usain Bolts's amazing peformances.

I've trained at Track and Fields from age 10 to 18, Gymnastic 10 to 14, played Rugby from 14 to 16 and Team Hand-ball since then (I'm now 40), do the maths...

I'm a sport lover, you should have guessed by now..;-)...I have competed in so many events, and I'm not affraid to applaude warmly both hands, when I see someone breaking a record or beating me or my team during an outstanding performance... as long as it is fair, and played in the rules, obviously, like everybody of you I don't like cheaters...
and call me naive but I just believe Usain Bolt is clean, Jamaican sprinters are the best, as are the Ethiopians and Kenyans for the long-runs. All these athletes really impress me. What a wondeful show they gave us during the Olympics. if someone doubt Mr Bolt has extraordinary talent and skills and put it on doping then he should question Michael Phelps' performances

Let us dream and enjoy the show... Long life to sport.

Jean-marc J.

Jen said...

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/08/bolt-is-freaky.html

There is a cool graph of the progression of world record 100 meter times...

CoolDestiny said...

This is quite an extraordinary piece and one I am proud of as a Jamaican.

One thing I must say is that it has been acknowledged that doping tests have not withstood the test of time, hence the reason for blood testing and no longer urine samples which can be substituted for purer, cleaner samples.

It was a hot topic that the Jamaicans were specifically targeted at the Beijing olympics and under went daily doping blood tests which are thought to be more conclusive. That being said, I continue to throw my support 110% behind my jamaican athletes, and categorically say that they are drug free. As you have stated, the sport suffered significantly in the last 30 years where athletes like Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and others yet to be discovered have tainted the sport, making it difficult for real talent, like Usain's to shine. I join many others who say that our achievement in this olympic games is a tribute to all Jamaican athletes gone before who were cheated of their rightful place on the medal podium because of "juiced up" Americans.

Anonymous said...

Ross,
Why have the j'cans done so well this time around

J'can athletes have over the years been outperformed by US and USSR athletes who eventually tested poitive. eg. merlene ottey, juliet cuthbert. More vigourous testing is now making the playingfield alot more level.

The rate of migration of our best athletes has plummeted due to an improved sports program. (so much so that kim collins (former 100m world champ), daryl brown, germain mason (silver medallist high jump britain) train here in Ja.) More linford christies, donovan baileys, sanya richards are now staying in Jamaica.

Athletes who went to USA to train used to have hectic schedules with many track meets, academics etc so they got hurt, burnt out. Sherone simpson told me that this was one of her many reasons for staying home.

We have great dedicated sprint coaches. Glen Mills coached raymond stewart (multi olympics finalist and kim collins). Stephen Francis sold his car and gave up his job as an auditor and invested everything in the mvp club 9 yrs ago.

Asafa Powell's dominance over the last 4- 5 yrs has motivated many other J'can athletes esp the ones around him at the mvp track club.

Please come to Jamaica to our boys/girls champs and you will see that we sprinting is embedded in our culture and we do put alot of emphasis on it. There is no other sports event in the Caribbean which pulls such attention.

I would also like to add that Jamaica, with its small number of athletes compared to china, usa russia etc is fifth on the list of most tested countries.(iaaf website) Our athletes have to submit schedules of their daily activities off season and iaaf officials randomly test them right throughout the off season. I have personally witnessed this on the University of Technology campus about 2 years ago when they came to test asafa.

Also i would like to point out that the former 4oom rec was held by deon hemmings a j'can. neither shelly-ann fraser nor veronica Campbell broke the national record in the 100 and 200 respectively. This is jus to show tht we have j'cans who have run fast before but were beaten by drug cheaters.

Ross.... let me hear your comments.

Anonymous said...

Ross,
Why have the j'cans done so well this time around

J'can athletes have over the years been outperformed by US and USSR athletes who eventually tested poitive. eg. merlene ottey, juliet cuthbert. More vigourous testing is now making the playingfield alot more level.

The rate of migration of our best athletes has plummeted due to an improved sports program. (so much so that kim collins (former 100m world champ), daryl brown, germain mason (silver medallist high jump britain) train here in Ja.) More linford christies, donovan baileys, sanya richards are now staying in Jamaica.

Athletes who went to USA to train used to have hectic schedules with many track meets, academics etc so they got hurt, burnt out. Sherone simpson told me that this was one of her many reasons for staying home.

We have great dedicated sprint coaches. Glen Mills coached raymond stewart (multi olympics finalist and kim collins). Stephen Francis sold his car and gave up his job as an auditor and invested everything in the mvp club 9 yrs ago.

Asafa Powell's dominance over the last 4- 5 yrs has motivated many other J'can athletes esp the ones around him at the mvp track club.

Please come to Jamaica to our boys/girls champs and you will see that we sprinting is embedded in our culture and we do put alot of emphasis on it. There is no other sports event in the Caribbean which pulls such attention.

I would also like to add that Jamaica, with its small number of athletes compared to china, usa russia etc is fifth on the list of most tested countries.(iaaf website) Our athletes have to submit schedules of their daily activities off season and iaaf officials randomly test them right throughout the off season. I have personally witnessed this on the University of Technology campus about 2 years ago when they came to test asafa.

Also i would like to point out that the former 4oom rec was held by deon hemmings a j'can. neither shelly-ann fraser nor veronica Campbell broke the national record in the 100 and 200 respectively. This is jus to show tht we have j'cans who have run fast before but were beaten by drug cheaters.

Ross.... let me hear your comments.

Anonymous said...

The 10.80 time and 21.80 times for the womens's 100m and 200m were actually quite slow compared to Flo 'Dead Druggist' Joyner's times of 10.4 and 21.2. This is just gives more credence to the theory that with stricter doping testing the playing field was leveled therefore the nature/nurtured talent of the Jamaicans shone through.

Usain Bolt is exceptional even among an remarkable population of sprinters. Who ever heard of braking the Class 1 200m record when he is just in Class 2.

For the know nothing idiots out there a Class 2 athlete is the under sixteen age group and Class 1 athletes are the under 19 age group.

Unlike the crazy US system where they simply have varsity and junior varsity athletics, in Jamaica we divide up the high school age groups into 4 classes. Class 4 is 12 and under, class 3 is 14 and under.

I was not in Jamaica when Usain was destroying the Class 4, 3, 2 and 1 fields but I know the partisan Jamaican high school alumni would have been screaming bloody murder about Usain Bolt being overage for his class. In Jamaica this would have been a far more serious offence than doping, especially if it affected the outcome at Champs. It is possibl we would have had to ban William Knibb High School from Champs.

Anonymous said...

The Olympics pressure is nothing compared to the pressure cooker of Boys or Girls Champs in Jamaica. Here is why -- at the Olympics the athletes are all seasoned professional. At Champs the true competitors identify themselves by responding to the pressure of a major meet for the first time. Many great talents fall by the way side at Champs, and Asafa Powell one of the great talents who got a second lease on life due to new opportunities to train in Jamaica after high school.

By the time we Jamaicans get to the Olympics we have already been through 5 or 6 of the most intense track competitions undertaken during the formative teenage years.

Anonymous said...

Although Jamaica cannot claim to be a wealthy country I have to say we are around the middle of the pack when it comes to per capita income. We rank 80th out of more than 180 countries. The US by the way is only around 11th, not even top 10.

Fama said...

Bolt ran 20.58s at 15. He won the WJ Champs that same year and is the youngest ever.

He ran 20.13s at 16, as well as 45.35s (still close to his PR at 400m). He ran 19.93s at 17, got injured and ran 19.88s at 20 and 19.75s at 21. 2007 was his fist big time 100m race and he bowed in at 10.03s!!!

Those in the know, knew he was a great in the making and there is a reason why he had a Puma contract from the age of 16 and has a Govt and IAAF sponsorship.

Bolt is the "ONE".

web design company said...

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MARC D said...

THIS IS ALL TOO FAMILIAR...

LET US REMEMBER CARL LEWIS CIRCA 1988,( WHO RESEMBLES TYSON GAY )AND BEN JOHNSON ( WHO RESEMBLES USAIN BOLT )....

WHEN JOHNSON BEAT LEWIS IN THE OLYMPIC FINAL IT WAS THOUGHT BY MANY THAT THIS WAS NOT POSSIBLE. LEWIS ESPECIALLY COULD NOT BELIEVE JOHNSON BEAT HIM AND BY THAT MARGIN.
TURNS OUT BEN JOHNSON WAS JUICIN FOR YEARS...NOW 20 YEARS LATER WITH THE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES AS SUCH, THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNDETECTABLE PERFORMANCE ENHANCERS, THE POSITIVE TESTS OF 5 JAMAICAN SPRINTERS ( RECENTLY ), THE LACKIDAISICAL ATTITUDE AND EVEN LAZINESS OF USAIN BOLT, THIS SUDDEN EMERGENCE, ETC....http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/02/sports/othersports/02track.html?em&ex=1212552000&en=8fe4d149fcb7eaf2&ei=5087%0A

IT IS ALL VERY, VERY SUSPICIOUS TO ME !!!
AS FAR AS THE GUILT BY ASSOCIATION....MARION JONE'S FIRST HUBBY ( THE SHOT PUTTER, BANNED FOR JUICIN ), HER SECOND HUBBY TIM MONTGOMERY I BELIEVE ( BANNED FOR JUICIN )AND EVEN ONE OF HER COACHES
HAD THE SWIRLING RUMORS. THEN, FINALLY SHE ADMITTED TO JUICIN SO, IT IS ALL AROUND THE JAMAICAN SPRINTERS ( WOMEN TOO ).

AS A FORMER SPRINTER MYSELF, I KNOW HOW WEATHER AND SUCH AFFECTS TIMES NOTHING AFFECTS BOLT.
I JUST SPOKE WITH A PROFESSIONAL RUNNER FRIEND WHO SAYS THEY ARE AWAITING THE B SAMPLES ON A HOST OF JAMAICAN SPRINTERS.THE NAMES ARE IN THE LINK BELOW;http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/html/20090723T220000-0500_156040_OBS_DRUG_CHEATS.asp

THE BEST THE JAMAICAN WOMEN DID WAS PERHAPS SECOND OR, THIRD ( MERLENE OTTEY ). OTTEY HERSELF HAD A POSITIVE TEST BACK IN THE 1970'S BUT WAS LATER CLEARED.
LASTLY, JUICIN GOES BACK AS FAR AS THE 1940'S.

MARC

Fast Big Man said...

Just stumbled across this site / post. For all the accusations being tossed back and forth, in the end people do need to keep in mind Bolt's times as a 15 - 17 year old. They were exceptional to say the least. I think Bolt is merely reaching his potential. He reminds me in a way of Jim Ryun, who while in very different events, never reached his potential for several reasons, not the least of which was the lack of training knowledge available, he and his coach (who based his workouts and workloads on what he gave to swimmers) were simply guessing. Bolt has the advantage of modern training methods. Bolt is amazing in that he moves out of the blocks like a guy who's 5'10" but he's 6'5" (or 6'6" according to some).

If he is doping, one can always state his competition is doing the same. For now, I prefer to believe he is the type of talent you get to see once in a lifetime if you're lucky. Then again, maybe he's the first in a line of tall sprinters who are going to change the 100 / 200. People should watch Bolt's start in slo-mo. To me he looks as if he's almost imitating Ben Johnson's jump out of the blocks.

Dee said...

I had doubts about Phelps but after reading an article about how he was trained, I decided to trust that he was clean until otherwise proven wrong.

After this article:

"By MICHAEL DONALDSON in Beijing - Fairfax Media | Monday, 25 August 2008
Wada boss defends Bolt

World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) director general David Howman says the Americans seemingly building a doping case against Usain Bolt should look at themselves first."

For me, the case is closed (based on the rest of the article, in which he makes some interesting points), until I have reason to believe otherwise.

The jury might be out on the others, but since none have tested positive, I am not going to worry about it unless they test positive.

Just out of curiosity, what would it take to convince doubters that the team is clean?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI Teddy

Yes indeed, walking chemistry experiments! THe other "sport" where doping is so clearly prevalent is WWE (professional wrestling). There have been a few deaths there, some in tragic circumstances. I wonder if anyone has statistics on death in bodybuilders.

I recall than in the mid-1990's, in the peak of the EPO boom in cycling, about a dozen young (20 to 28) cyclists died in their sleep in Europe. That kind of instigated the drive to develop a test (among other factors, of course) and control the use of EPO, because up until then, doping was relatively unregulated, certainly by the teams (and the Federations are complicit, make no mistake)

ROss

Anonymous said...

It's all about "project believe" here ... Bolt like Phelps. Illusions don't need any prove ... That's the new Olympics, the new sport.

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece.

The only thing I would add is that Donovan Bailey ('96), Linford Christie ('92) and Ben Johnson ('88) were all Jamaican born.

That two of them served drug bans is neither here nor there - they all left Jamaica as children - but maybe it's just socio-economic factors that mean Jamaica are holding on to their best talent these days?

Also, I think we have to consider the possibility that if one Jamaican athlete is doping, it doesn't necessarily mean they all are. After all, many of the Jamaican meddalists have come through the US collegiate system and train in the US. Julien Dunkley, the relay selection who tested positive after the Jamaican national trials and was dropped from the squad, has by some accounts never been involved in the sport in Jamaica - he in fact was coached at one point by none other than Trevor Graham...