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Original Issue

The Race Goes On

Usain Bolt outsprinted Justin Gatlin in Beijing, but the sport still has a crisis to run down

HERE IS WHAT Usain Bolt did on Sunday night at the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing (where, at the 2008 Olympics, he established himself as an outsized, hyperfast cartoon superhero): He ran his fastest 100 meters (9.79 seconds) in what had been a desultory season, winning the world championship by .01 over Justin Gatlin of the U.S., whose performances over the last two years had made him a solid favorite in the race. Bolt, 29, won his fifth global 100-meter title (two Olympics, three worlds) in seven years to go with three world records, firmly stamping himself as not only the greatest pure sprinter in history but also as the consummate big-stage performer, whose pre- and postrace theatrics mask his excellence.

Here is what Bolt did not do Sunday night at the Birds Nest: rescue the sport of track and field from the scourge of PED use.

The race had been one of the most anticipated sprint showdowns in history. Bolt has struggled this season, while Gatlin, at age 33, has been running the fastest times of his life. But also: Gatlin was suspended for doping from 2006 through '10, while Bolt has never tested positive, leading the track world to frame the matchup as a battle of evil vs. good. When the race ended, British world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe melodramatically tweeted, " ... and breathe!"

It's all hyperventilating. Gatlin is called a two-time drug loser, when one of his positives was 14 years ago for Adderall, which he had taken since he was a boy for ADD. His second bust, for testosterone or its precursors in 2006, was legitimate, but Gatlin has denied long-term steroid usage and sat out four years in the prime of his sprinting (and earning) career as punishment.

The sport is drowning in drug revelations. Last month the IAAF, track and field's governing body, confirmed that 28 athletes from the '05 and '07 worlds had produced positive drug tests through retesting with enhanced methods.

In the battle between clean and dirty, Bolt's victory over Gatlin is symbolic at best. (Who knows if Gatlin is clean now? Or if Bolt truly is?) It was a terrific footrace, nothing more. They were scheduled to face off again Thursday night in the 200. That race—no matter how terrific—can't decide the sport's future, either.


Texans center Ben Jones said he drank a cup of a teammate's urine on a bet for an undisclosed amount of money during a drug-testing session.