Athletics

Michael Johnson: Atheltics will never be drug free

Johnson says athletics doesn't hit home with people outside the Olympics. (©GettyImages)
Johnson says athletics doesn't hit home with people outside the Olympics. (©GettyImages).

Michael Johnson, the four time Olympic champion, says that athletics will never be free of drugs and that without the Olympics the sport would be dead.

Johnson was speaking at a GOALS Forum in Doha alongside Dame Kelly Holmes and Jonathan Edwards when he made the claims.

"You are never going to have a situation where no-one cheats," said Johnson. "Athletics is a microcosm of real life and in real life you will always have people who cheat. It’s unrealistic to expect athletics to be a drug free sport.

"Other sports may have fans that can put up with it but in athletics the fans want to see the Olympians hold true to the Olympic ideal and values."

The US track star continued to say that the Olympics is the only reason that athletics is in the public eye at all, questioning whether the sport would hold much interest with the global public at all if games did not exist.

"To be honest, if it weren’t for the Olympics, athletics would be dead. Off the face of the earth. Even if Usain (Bolt) hadn’t come along, nothing would be different as the Olympics still save athletics."

His views were back up by Holmes who thinks that athletics needs to be rebranded.

"We have to change how we project athletics – at the moment it’s the same all the time,” said Holmes. "It needs glamour and theatre around it. Once the Olympic Games are over and it is out of the public eye, athletics doesn’t resonate with young people.”

Johnson has become a highly respected athletics pundit and trainer across the globe since retiring from a prestigious career.

The former 200m and 400m world record holder has long been an outspoken anti-doping advocate and in Doha he lived up to his reputation for not pulling his punches when it comes to assessing the sport.

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