There are some who still believe that Clint Eastwood is able to communicate with an orangutan. I used to, although in my defence I was only six when I saw the seminal redneck classic Every Which Way But Loose, featuring Eastwood and his simian friend named Clyde. At that age, one’s suspension of disbelief is a lot more loosely adjusted.
Now I know that Eastwood commanding an ape to punch an adversary by way of telling him to perform a hand signal out of the passenger window is like thinking every athlete at the World Championships is clean.
So how sweet it would be to live like Colin Jackson, the BBC pundit. There has scarcely been an athletics story in the last three months without the word “doping” included, but Jackson chooses to keep his head firmly in the sand.
He blathers on about how good an athlete’s year has been, how fantastic it is for a 33-year-old man to be still at the top of his sport, with no mention whatsoever that he is referring to a twice-banned drug cheat.
We are, of course, talking about Justin Gatlin, the poster boy for all that is wrong with the sport. As he coasted home with a 9.77sec semi-final race on Sunday, Jackson gushed: “Even with all his problems, you cannot take away the fact he is on top of his game.”
Please. His “problems” include running the fastest he has ever run, 11 long years after he won Olympic gold. Fantastic, if you want to believe it. At least the rest of the commentary team are not as praiseworthy. After Gatlin’s heat, Andrew Cotter said through gritted teeth: “Just… extraordinary. Just like that, 9.83 seconds.”
After the semi-final, Cotter was no doubt, shaking his head at the wilful ignorance of Jackson and damned the American with the faintest of praise: “If there is one thing you can say about Justin Gatlin, he is not a flaky runner.”
Credit should also go to Steve Cram. In the semi-final after Gatlin’s, which included Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay and therefore was even more cheat-ridden than the previous one, as far as known evidence goes, he did not hold back at his ill-feeling that the two banned athletes were allowed to compete. After all, Gatlin is not the only villain in Beijing.
The moments before the 100m final were depressing. Cram listed the runners’ bans as the camera panned across, while Jackson wittered about the pianist in the stadium, playing to build the atmosphere.
Thankfully, there was a happy ending. “He may have even saved the sport,” Cram said after Bolt edged out Gatlin. Jackson followed up with a Freudian slip. “Gatlin has not been tested for 20 races,” he said. Perhaps therein lies the problem with his times this year.
The bad feeling aimed at the American is justified. But just as it was naïve of me to think that Clyde understood the words “right turn” to mean “punch the baddie in the face”, it is deluded to think that Gatlin is the only cheat. And even more innocent if you follow Jackson’s lead and ignore the fact that Gatlin and his ilk are dopers. My excuse, I reiterate, is that I was only six when I saw Clint and Clyde.Reuse content