Loosening a tight Bolt… training is a real stretch as fitness questions grow over sprint king
23:20 GMT, 25 July 2012
Not everything is as it appears in the well-manicured image presented by Usain Bolt Ltd.
Sure, the main man is a joker who loves to party into the small hours – and beyond – of the Jamaican morning. He is a chilled dude with a toothy smile and an appetite for chicken nuggets.
All that is real, but still aspects of Bolt's character jar. It is not his start-line nonchalance, exaggerated for showboating effect, that rankles – no, that is part of the fun. What rankles is that his minders build a high wall around him, keeping the world away and the cash registers ringing.
Pushing the limit: Bolt grimaces as his physio goes to work but coach Mills looks relaxed
The secrecy invites questions. The absence of answers begets suspicion. That was the case when he failed to show for an open training session on Tuesday.
Was he injured
Was his participation in the Olympics in doubt
On Wednesday, as these exclusive pictures show, he was flat on his back. But before his rivals get carried away, he was smiling, too.
At the Jamaican's base in Birmingham
he was able to train – his programme included some starts – before
having a long stretching session. Bolt's coach, Glen Mills, shared a
joke with him and laughed loudly while the physio pushed and pulled the fastest legs in history.
The scene told us that Bolt looks likely to be on the start line for the 100 metres final a week on Sunday.
However, we do not know in exactly what condition. After his recent
defeat by training partner Yohan Blake at the Jamaican trials, and a
second unexpected trip to the German doctor Hans Muller-Wohlfahrt
earlier this month, some doubts must linger.
Down in London's Olympic Park the
question was not so much about Bolt's fitness as about the legality of
Jamaican sprinting. Innuendo suggested, one questioner said, that
testing there was not the most stringent on the planet.
Pull the other one: Mills and Bolt succumb to a fit of the giggles
David Howman, the World Anti-Doping
Agency boss, responded by saying he had visited the island last year.
'Satisfactory,' was his overall verdict. Well, it sounded an
unsatisfactory answer, given how dominant Jamaican sprinters – men and
woman – are.
Nor has every
one of their samples proved clean. No less than Bolt's chief rival and
the fastest man this year, Blake, tested positive for the stimulant
methyl-xanthine in 2009. It was a drug not yet on WADA's banned list
but, perhaps unreasonably, he was still suspended for three months.
raised the subject of drugs with Mills, the influential guru to a
generation of Jamaican sprinters, including Bolt and Blake, and a devout
say anything,' he said. 'Track and field may have contributed to that
kind of scepticism as unfortunately a number of outstanding athletes
have tested positive, even in the recent past.
'That casts doubt on everybody who runs fast. But drugs are not the
only thing that can make people run fast. Hard work and ability get the
Challenge: Bolt wants to win a gold medal in London
'If you are
saying that Jamaicans, because they run fast, are on drugs then I see
that as a witch-hunt. Jamaicans would say those allegations are down to
a bad mind or some kind of envy.
'The thing about drugs is that I have a
distinct line between a person who inadvertently finds something in
their system, a stimulant or something, that is widespread in cough
syrup, supplements or whatever, as against somebody who is on a
deliberate drug programme, knowingly, willingly planned.
'That is a clear indication of a
person who is corrupt and I have no tolerance for that. I don't think
anybody should be banned for life, though. My Christian values speak of
forgiveness. They should be punished, yes; banned for life, no.' Bolt
is on record as saying he must win at least an Olympic title here in
London to be considered a legend, seeing multiple successes at major
championships as the true yardstick of such status.
In that attempt, he will face the American Justin Gatlin, who was
banned for four years after testing positive for testosterone, and whose
presence in the 100m final would serve as an emblem of the doping
menace. So how many in those eight lanes will be fuelled illegally
Mills said: 'I don't know. You can't ask me that. It is impossible to
guess. I would hope it is nought. Even WADA could not tell you. If they
knew, the athletes wouldn't be there.
'But I would love to see a clean sport. I could never feel good
winning anything having knowingly set out to cheat to win. No.'