Olympic champ Daley Thompson furious at drug cheat comebacks
By Rebecca Wilson
Sunday Herald Sun
September 12, 2010
DUAL Olympic gold medallist Daley Thompson says athletes who return one positive drug test should be banned from the sport for life.
Speaking in London, Thompson said he was disgusted with the way athletes were allowed back after serving doping bans.
"The authorities need to be a lot stronger against the people who are cheating," Thompson said.
"Rather than giving them one and two-year bans, ban them forever.
"I don't understand how we can allow people who are cheats and spoil our game to continue to play.
"If they want to cheat, go and play somewhere else."
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Thompson, who will join Foxtel's commentary team for the Delhi Commonwealth Games, says doping remains a big problem in track and field because authorities had turned a blind eye for too long.
"I think back to the 1960s, '70s and '80s and the governing bodies were complicit in what was going on in terms of cheating and not really trying to eradicate it," he said.
He is dismayed several world-ranked track athletes who have served doping suspensions are competing and attracting appearance money to turn up at major meetings.
He says a cloud will always hang over them, even though they maintain they are now clean.
Thompson, who won decathlon gold at the 1980 and '84 Olympics, competed at the height of the East German and Russian challenge to the US for track and field supremacy.
He says he realised then his sport was full of cheats, but he never allowed it to impede his approach to competition.
"It would have been such a big distraction," he said.
"If you have it in your mind that three out of the eight or five out of the 20 in your event may be cheating, you allow it to interfere with what you are doing and, more importantly, with your joy of sport.
"If I thought anything about drugs, my only thought was I'm going to do whatever it takes legally to be the best and to beat you today."Thompson remembers how broken hearted he was when Canadian Ben Johnson returned a positive drug test after defeating Carl Lewis in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
"Nobody could quite believe that Johnson had won so easily," he said.
"It was one of the great sporting sights to behold that day, and then it became one of the greatest sporting tragedies, because everybody just felt so let down."
Thompson was never a professional athlete. He rues the onset of professionalism, because it dictates when and where athletes compete.
The world's fastest man Usain Bolt commands a $250,000 appearance fee. Even though he is injured, Bolt withdrew from the Commonwealth Games before he was injured.
"For me, it was only ever about competitions," Thompson said.
"It wasn't about hiding and trying to keep a ranking and all of that. It was just about going out every week and proving that I was the best around.
"I also think that you have a responsibility to your event and to your sport if you are the best to be out there competing all the time."
Thompson, 52, still looks like he could compete against men half his age. He maintains a rigorous training regime, but leaves a lot of time to spend with his five children and watching athletics.
"Bolt is unbelievable and we are really lucky the sport has him at the moment because he brings a whole new generations of kids," Thompson said.
"But none of the other guys and girls really grabs me because I think, like most people in the public, that they don't seem to have enough personality.
"I think that if you have a bit of personality, people become emotive about you and it doesn't matter if they like you or not, it draws people in because they either want to see you win or lose."
Thompson's larger than life character has been harnessed by the London organising committee for the Olympic Games.