LONDON (Reuters) – Newly-crowned “greatest-ever sprinter” Usain Bolt said on Thursday he had lost all respect for Carl Lewis, the man whose on-track exploits he has surpassed with his unique Olympic double-double but who still leads the way in self-regard.
American Lewis is the only other man to win two Olympic 100m gold medals, the second coming in 1988 when he was promoted from second place after the disqualification of Ben Johnson.
He won the 200m in 1984 but managed only silver four years later. He did, however, have a remarkable run of success in the long jump, winning that event in four successive Games for a tally of nine golds in all.
In the wake of Bolt’s triple-gold record success in Beijing Lewis was quick to point the finger of suspicion at him and Jamaica in general.
“I think there are some issues,” he said at the time.
“Countries like Jamaica do not have a random (drugs testing) program, so they can go months without being tested. I’m not saying anyone is on anything, but everyone needs to be on a level playing field.
“I’m not saying they’ve done anything for certain. I don’t know. But how dare anybody feel that there shouldn’t be scrutiny, especially in our sport?”
He has continued to fire broadsides ever since but Bolt, now with his sprinting record unquestionably superior, hit back.
“I’m going to say something controversial right now, Carl Lewis – I have no respect for him,” Bolt said, having cited 1936 quadruple champion Jesse Owens as a man he held in the highest regard.
“The things he (Lewis) says about the track athletes, it’s really downgrading for another athlete to be saying something like that about other athletes.
“I think he is just looking for attention really because nobody really talks much about him. It was really sad for me when I heard the other day what he was saying, it was upsetting.
“So, for me, I’ve lost all respect for him, all respect.
“It was all about drugs, about drugs stuff for me. For an athlete to be out of the sport saying that was really upsetting for me. As far as I am concerned he is just looking for attention.”
Lewis tested positive three times for a stimulant before the 1988 Games but had the results overturned by American officials.
He was named “Athlete of the 20th Century” by the IOC, the IAAF, and American magazine Sports Illustrated and has always seemed uncomfortable with the idea that someone from the 21st could surpass his achievements. Asked before the London Games what he thought of Bolt, he said: “It’s just… interesting.
“I watch the results like everyone else and wait… for time to tell.”
Even after Bolt won his second 100m title, Lewis’s congratulations were wrapped in barbed wire.
“He repeats and he’s tremendous and he’s the second person to do it and congratulations,” he said last week.
“The thing for me, what I really admire about anyone, is longevity. We still have to have the longevity and dominance through the era because for me performance-wise, you really have to put longevity in.
“I’m really not trying to take anything away from his performance because it was tremendous, but you’ve got to see the consistency over a period of time because as of now it’s just a four-year period and you really have to see a continuous dominance.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)