NAIROBI, Kenya, February 29- Retired American track and field legend, Carl Lewis, has said the sport will continue being tainted by doping as long as inconsistencies in testing and lack of a global crisis management effort continue at the top level.
Speaking in Nairobi on Thursday where he was a keynote speaker in the 2014 IBM Business Connect convention, Lewis, a winner of nine Olympics gold medals slammed authorities for failing to adequately address the subject that is threatening the very existence of the sport.
“People that follow the sport know what is going on. Track and field has never had a crisis management division to understand what is best.
“Right now, American football is attacking the issue of concussions. They are not attacking because of the athletes; the reality is they are attacking it because those athletes’ mothers and those athletes’ wives may not want their sons to play football,” the poster boy of track and field in the 80s and 90s explained.
He urged administrators of the sport including world governing body, IAAF and member federations to approach the matter from a business sense to safeguard the future of track and field that has seen credibility receive massive hits due to high level doping bursts with leading countries such as Jamaica, Kenya and USA under the spotlight.
“They should be focussed on what is the most important thing for our business model to be successful. We can care about people, that really where it starts unless you have a core understanding of what you are trying to accomplish you can’t do it. If you don’t know the question how can you have the answer that is what is wrong.
“Track and field flounders in this area if we don’t know what to do if we have drug problems, we can’t do anything, we are afraid of it, no! We have to be serious!”
Following recent reports of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) targeting sprint kings Jamaica and distance running powerhouses Kenya for claims of widespread drug abuse, Lewis who had some of his monumental performances questioned in his hey day called for standardisation of testing procedures worldwide.
“There has to be consistency globally. Five years ago, I said that there was inconsistency in a lot of programmes around the world and they asked me about Jamaica and I said they are not testing the same way like the rest of the world is.
Until they do that, they will not have credibility. What happens five years later? They announced last year they did not test anyone for six months because they said they did not have the money,” he explained.
The eight-time World champion called on authorities to step up ramming the message home on recent measures in place to nab drug cheats including the widely hailed biological passport.
“How can you have credibility if you don’t have consistency? There are so many issues that have to be addressed before people will believe it. I believe, there is no plan, there is no global idea of what to do and they are not telling their message.
“One thing we have is the passport where they test you and continue to test your sample years in advance and that be the one I would be trumping right now saying look, we are so concerned and we will take down our top guy if we have to,” he underscored.
He added: “We have eight years to catch you, that’s a tremendous deterrent to the public if they knew we are going to keep going after you eight years after you have finished running your race, they will be wow!, they are really serious about this.
“No one knows about that so messaging is important, just as important as implementation of the programme.”
In 2003, it was revealed Lewis tested positive three times at the 1988 Olympics Trials for minimum amounts of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, banned stimulants and bronchodilators also found in cold medication and due to the rules his case could lead to disqualification from the Seoul Olympics but was cleared for intentional drug use.
This is the reason why he called on a broader crisis management to aid the sport rid itself of negative perceptions especially in this age where information flow is instant.
The nine-time Olympics champion is eager to see another athlete match his fete in his lifetime.
“I hope so; I hope we can see someone else do that. When I won my ninth gold and people came to me and said it. Obviously it’s difficult because you have to go to multiple games and do multiple events.
“To me, the issue is not the nine Olympic golds and the silver. It was the four golds in the Long jump because now people say the fastest man in the world which is the title I wanted. In my era, it was about the fastest man in the world, the heavy weight champion and the greatest athlete.
“Nowadays everybody runs but I ran and jumped so, I’m the best. It’s a possibility but seeing someone in the sprints and field events, I don’t think we going to see that because of the nature of the sport now.”