Lewis says doping in track is worse than ever

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The Independent Online

With an eye toward the Sydney Olympics, retired track and field star Carl Lewis said the problem of doping in his sport is "worse than it's ever been."

Lewis restated accusations against U.S. and international track officials of "lies and cover-ups" related to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

"You can test all you want, but if you're covering it up, it doesn't matter," said the nine-time Olympic gold medalist, who retired in 1997. "There is no commitment to stopping the drug problem."

Lewis said he will attend the Sydney Olympics in September as a Nike spokesman, but that he will not watch events he believes are "dirty."

Lewis, in Rome to promote a Danish-made natural pain reliever, said he has not regularly followed the sport since his retirement, focusing instead on his acting ambitions in Los Angeles.

But he said it is clear that many top athletes are using banned substances.

"People know the sport is dirty," Lewis said. "The sport is so driven by records. But in the end it's actually turning people off. If the public and the sponsors don't believe you're real, they won't be there."

Lewis became an outspoken critic of doping in sports following the Seoul Olympics in 1988 when Canadian Ben Johnson won the 100 metres in a word record time of 9.79 seconds - only to be stripped of the gold medal and record after testing positive for steroids. Lewis was awarded the gold.

"It was bad when Ben (Johnson) got caught, and then it got better," said Lewis. "Now it's worse than it's ever been."