We all like fairytales. They brighten up the all too often grim business of life. 

We know what we are buying into but the alternative of a world without fantasy is too cold to contemplate. So every four years when world records are broken at the Olympic Games or at the world championships of each sport, we prefer to believe at that moment that the race was clean, the record will stand and the athlete has played by the rules. Days, weeks and sometimes months later the bubble is burst and revelations of illegal substance in the urine make the headlines. It’s happens all too often yet still we crave the fairytale ending and so we tell ourselves its just a few bad apples. 

He’s arrogant, he’s flash and at the moment of writing he’s the fastest human being ever to have walked the planet, and what is more, he comes from a tiny island just off the coast of the most powerful country in the world, and we love him for it. I refer of course to Usain Bolt of Jamaica. So it is with much consternation that we learn that at least five of his fellow Jamaican athletes have tested positive for illegal substances and that at least one of the five is from the same club as Bolt- the Racers Track Club. All five are part of the Jamaican National squad getting ready to do battle at the World Championships in Berlin next month. What should we think and say when faced with these stubbornly unpleasant facts? 

I remember all too well my reactions to the continual claims that East European athletes, and particularly East German athletes, were habitually using performance enhancing drugs as an aid to their mind boggling Olympic successes. For far too long I dismissed these claims as the usual anti socialist propaganda until the body of evidence became just too overwhelming. I hope against hope that the same situation does not arise with the Jamaican sprinters or the African long distance runners. My excuse for my naivety regarding the East Europeans was my idealistic youth and my passion for the socialist underdog. This time round I can make no such excuses. I just have to cling on to the fairytale that this is not endemic cheating but just a few bad apples or perhaps an innocent mistake. But the news coming out of Jamaica is not encouraging. 

Leaving aside the routine denials of wrong doings by the Jamaican athletes and the Jamaican authorities, one has to focus on the comments of a one Teddy McCook, IAAF council member and former President of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association who is quoted by The Guardian as follows; ‘I wouldn’t say that I sleep easy. One of the things that I have to keep on saying to my colleagues here in Jamaica, is that we have a tendency whenever someone runs fast from the US we say, ‘they’re on drugs’, whenever our guys run fast, we’re talented’. The situation is so alarming that the Jamaican Prime Minister has convened a special enquiry to find out exactly what is going on. The very reputation of a small country like Jamaica can hinge on the outcome of such an enquiry.

Of course we have been here before; Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and Dwain Chambers to name but three. Sport reflects life. Humans want to win and they will use whatever means possible to get an edge. It’s in our genes. It’s what has got us to the top of the food chain. So I guess we should not beat ourselves up too badly if the Jamaicans go the way of the East Germans. I’m still desperately hoping the Jamaicans get a clean bill of health but I, like so many, still love a good fairytale. 




Last Updated ( Friday, 18 September 2009 11:45 )