Dopers must get life bans! Former Olympic 100m champion Bailey warns drug cheats
By Laurie Whitwell
6 August 2013
Donovan Bailey has warned athletics dopers not to risk death by boosting their bodies to dangerous degrees in pursuit of glory and reiterated his call for lifetime bans to be given to those who cheat.
The former 100m world record holder believes his sport can progress past the scandals engulfing it after positive tests for Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell but emphasised that can only happen when every athlete takes full responsibility for whatever substances are found in their systems.
Bailey, who took gold in 9.84sec at the 1996 Atlanta Games, is only one of two 100m Olympic champions since 1984 not to have been tainted by an association with drugs.
His words come on the eve of the World Championships in Moscow and the likelihood is you will be hearing more from the 45-year-old Canadian as he is travelling to Russia to act as an analyst for BBC Radio 5 Live.
‘I don’t really know why someone would want to do something that would damage their life,’ Bailey told Sportsmail of drugs that push the boundaries of human physiology. ‘But I mean when there’s money and fame, sometimes insecure people will do anything.
‘There’s going to be cynics who want people to kill themselves I’m sure. But the majority of people want to see every single athlete on a level playing field, getting out there and doing exactly what it is they’re supposed to do.
‘I think 99 per cent of sports fans want to see their heroes do incredible things with whatever talent God has blessed them with. I’ve never gone to a competition to watch a trainer or a physio or a doctor.’
Numerous Tour de France cyclists have had performance-enhancing drugs implicated in their deaths, while Justin Gatlin, Marion Jones, and Dwain Chambers were part of a doping programme based around anabolic steroids known to have side effects on bodily organs.
Leave the white-coated scientists to hospitals, is the message, and it comes from that rarest of sources: an Olympic gold medal sprinter never afflicted by the stain of cheating.
Bailey emerged into athletics more attune to the damages of doping than most. He was 20 when a bulging-eyed Ben Johnson, his compatriot, ran the fastest 100m in history to take gold at Seoul 1988 only to get busted in post-race tests for stanozolol, a steroid used in horse-racing.
The infamous, indignant reaction worldwide was bound to leave an impression. But pan forward and you find Johnson is not alone. The man who took his gold and that of four years earlier, Carl Lewis, failed three tests during the 1988 US Olympic trials but blamed a cold medicine and was let off.
Britain’s Linford Christie, the Barcelona 1992 champion, tested positive for nandrolone in 1999, while Maurice Greene, who won at Sydney 2000, never failed a test but was accused by a Mexican discus thrower of paying $10,000 for drugs in 2003. Greene denies the claims.
Gatlin’s victory at Athens 2004 still stands even though he served a ban between 2006 and 2010. He claimed a masseur rubbed a testosterone cream onto his buttocks without his knowledge.
Similar tales of ignorance have begun to fall from the lips of Gay and Powell but such excuses don’t wash with Bailey, who is joined on the pedestal of clean running by sprint legend Usain Bolt.
Bailey said: ‘I knew every single supplement that was going in my body, every piece of food, any kind of liquids. I’m coming from Canada where’s there’s a guy named Ben Johnson who tested positive. That makes news in 1988. So I would never allow myself to be part of that.
‘The onus is on the athlete, the onus is on you understanding exactly what you’re putting into your body. One of the great things I proved is that by eating right, having proper therapy, and training correctly you can win world championships and Olympic Games. I preach that to the young kids.
‘Over the last 20 years there have only been two clean athletes who have won the Olympic 100m. That’s myself and Usain. That’s not bad company. It separates me.
‘I competed against guys who clearly were cheating but I beat them all. That’s the best freedom you can have in any sport; beating up on someone who is dirty. You can look in their eyes and see that they’re searching for something that they’re never going to find.
‘I don’t know Usain’s training, therapy or nutrition regiment. But I do know he’s a good kid and he’s been setting incredible times from when he was a teenager. The world has been watching him since he was 15 years old.
‘He’s doing the right thing by answering the question, telling the world he’s clean and getting out there and competing. There’s nothing else he can do. He hit it right on the head.’
So what about the sanctions for those less virtuous souls who find the rewards of doping too attractive?
‘The IAAF have to test for it, govern it, and set the rules. Clearly they think that maybe moving the ban from two to four years would stop it and if that’s the case that’s fine.
‘But my philosophy, I’m just a little bit more regimented. I would say: “You signed a deal, you can’t step out of it.” My stance, if it was just me, would be lifetime.’
Donovan Bailey is new to BBC Radio 5 live this year and will be part of the commentary team for the World Athletics Championships between August 10-18. Full coverage is across BBC television, radio, online and on mobile.