- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

King Carl got royally busted last week twice.
The California Highway Patrol said nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis failed a series of sobriety tests after a one-car accident Monday and was arrested. But that wasn't nearly as devastating to his reputation as the personal acknowledgement to the Orange County Register two days later that he failed a series of drug tests leading up to the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Lewis did not seem at all concerned that the uproar over his admitted drug use will harm his reputation. He 'fessed up before the list could be made public.
"I've been retired for five years, and they're still talking about me. So I guess I still have it," the 41-year-old track star told Reuters.
Typical Carl. If there was one thing he did better than any of his competitors in track and field, it was to play the hypocrite.
Can you imagine how Lewis had the gall to rub Ben Johnson's drug conviction and subsequent disqualification at the 1988 Games in the Canadian's face when he was just as guilty?
(From the Toronto Sun in 1997: "Meanwhile, America's greatest track athlete, sprinter Carl Lewis, attacked his own federation for trying to hush up drug use in U.S. sport after it revealed yesterday that two more American athletes have been caught doping although there have been no official announcements made.
"'There is no question in my mind that they have more knowledge about the drug problem than they are telling the public,' Lewis said. 'The problem [in U.S. athletics] now is that the structure has broken down and the doping problem is being ignored and sometimes supported. … They are overlooking the drug problem and, in some cases, they may have even tried to protect the athletes.'")
Nobody has as good a first-hand knowledge of the drug problem in track and field than Lewis.
This week Lewis said the U.S. Olympic Committee disqualified him after the 1988 Olympic trials but then accepted his appeal on the basis that he had taken an herbal supplement and was unaware of its contents.
"Everyone was treated the same," Lewis told Reuters this week. The track superstar tested positive three times for pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine, all stimulants banned by the U.S. and International Olympic committees.
(From the Boston Globe in 1999: "Lewis came out with comments about drugs in modern sports. He called it 'lies and cover-ups' by some track and field administrators who protect athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs. Lewis said that authorities overlook many infractions and contended that it is 'no coincidence' that most of the current high-profile drug controversies involve athletes over the age of 30.
"Lewis went on to say, 'The sport is losing credibility because people know it is dirty. We need to change the whole moral standard of this sport.'")
Today Lewis may have nothing to lose. At his best, he didn't lose in the long jump for a decade, winning 65 consecutive competitions. He won four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics, equaling the 1936 accomplishment of his hero, Jesse Owens. He sped to a world record in the 100 meters.
But he never enjoyed the off-track success that his on-track heroics deserved. He had the dashing looks, the articulation, but he always came across as arrogant and abrasive, lacking the humility we crave from our sports heroes.
"I have the impression that Mr. Lewis believes the case could be trivialized because it's so long ago," Helmut Digel, a German vice president of the IAAF, was quoted as saying by the German sports Web site Sport 1 according to the Associated Press.
"But that's not the responsible way to deal with this," he said. "Rules are rules and they were apparently broken. According to IAAF rules, Mr. Lewis should have been suspended, regardless of whether he took the substance knowingly or unknowingly."
Lewis responds to all this by saying it is a dead issue, that nobody cares after all these years. There, King Carl, you are wrong.
Athletes from around the world, from Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey to great Irish miler Eamon Coghlan to Australian Olympic swim champion Grant Hackett, are calling on Lewis to return his medals.
That will never happen. Who's to say that the guys behind Lewis in the 1988 Olympic 100-meter final were any cleaner?
The only thing we can do is strike Lewis' 1988 Olympic trials and Olympic standards from the books as we did Ben Johnson's and move forward.

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