Doping tsunami leaves number one sport on brink

Thu Jul 28, 2016 12:23am EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - A year of unrelenting misery, of corruption, cover-ups, bans, appeals and doping, doping, doping, has ripped the heart and soul out of athletics, the sport that likes to think of itself as the heart and soul of the Olympics.

There is not a doping cloud hovering above the track and field program at the Rio Games, there is a dense, filthy smog that has enveloped every corner and left the sport teetering on the edge of the abyss.

Jamaica's Usain Bolt will probably still stop the world when he bids for his incredible sprint triple, Briton Mo Farah will be hugely feted if he becomes only the second man to do the distance double-double, while New Zealander Valerie Adams will underline her status as one of the greatest women throwers of all time if she makes it three in a row in the shot.

But those performances, and every other over 10 days in Rio, will be viewed through the prism of doping, with the absence of Russian athletes a daily reminder of the sport's curse.

It is not that everyone thinks Bolt, Farah and Adams have been boosted by drugs. It is potentially worse -- people increasingly no longer care.

A year ago Bolt was hailed as the savior of athletics after beating Justin Gatlin, twice convicted of doping offences, in the world championships 100m.

If Bolt's creaking hamstrings hold out then he has a great chance of further enhancing his position as a, or possibly, the "legend" of the sport by winning both sprints again and helping Jamaica to a third successive 4x100m gold.

He did enough in his final run in London last week to indicate that he is healthy -- and just now needs to rediscover the race sharpness that has seen him bestride the sport for the last eight years.   Continued...

Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) Secretary General Matthieu Reeb speaks to journalists about the final decision in the case between the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), 68 Russian athletes and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over their participation in the Rio Olympic Games, in Lausanne, Switzerland, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo