Even the fastest man alive can’t outrun the long arm of the law. Sprinter Usain Bolt will have to forfeit one of his nine Olympic gold medals after a member of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team tested positive for a banned substance.
Nesta Carter was part of Jamaica’s gold-medal-winning 4x100m team in Bejing in 2008. As part of an anti-doping effort, Carter’s sample was one of 454 retested last year. He tested positive for methlhexaneamine, a compound chemically related to amphetamines (but only slightly stronger than cup of coffee) that’s sold as a nasal decongestant.
Still reeling from the widespread Russian doping scandal, public trust in the International Olympic Committee is at an all-time low. The luster the Games has enjoyed is fading.
Eligible host cities and nations have withdrawn their names from the proverbial hat, unwilling to shoulder the cost of the Olympics in exchange bragging rights.
Worse, the Committee itself is increasingly perceived as an organization that exists to enrich itself and line the pockets of well-connected contractors and officials who plunder state coffers.
Global perception of the Russians is (and has been) that they’re kinda sketchy. An institutionalized doping conspiracy is par for the course for them. And as a rouge actor, their conduct does not reflect upon the Olympics.
But Usain Bolt is the poster child of the Olympics. He is the Olympics for a whole generation of young sports fans. Last summer in Rio, he completed his immaculate, unprecedented “triple triple” by winning gold in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay – a feat he had done twice before in 2008 and 2012.
While his medal is being stripped by no fault of his own, eight gold medals doesn’t have the same ring that nine does. Nine is perfection. Eight, for Usain Bolt, is just pretty good.
It doesn’t affect his legacy as the fastest man who ever lived. But it is an asterisk by his reputation, an indelible footnote to his otherwise divine career.