Lightning strikes in 9.77


MOSCOW -- A few minutes before the men's 100 meter final here Sunday night, lightning began flashing in the sky over Luzhniki Stadium. Just in time for the Bolt show.

As the rain came down hard and fast, Usain Bolt rocked to victory Sunday night in the men's 100-meter final in a season-best 9.77 seconds.

Lightning flashed, literally, as Bolt crossed the finish line. Some things are just too fantastic for even scriptwriters to dream up. "I need to get that picture right now," Bolt said later. "That is pretty cool."


Track and field is, right now, in many ways, Usain Bolt. It made no difference that his winning time Sunday was not close to his world record of 9.58, not even close. Indeed, it marked only Bolt's sixth-fastest time. His time was, in fact, two-hundredths of a second slower than the fastest mark in the 100 this year, 9.75, run in June by American Tyson Gay, who has since reportedly failed more than one doping test. Gay has acknowledged that he has failed at least one test.

Just imagine if Tyson Gay had won this race. What if his doping matter had come out not before these worlds but -- after? What then for track and field?

American Justin Gatlin, who took second Sunday behind Bolt in 9.85, is the 2004 Olympic 100 champion but then served a four-year doping ban. What if Gatlin had won? What then for track and field?

The sport woke up Sunday to a report that Trinidad and Tobago's Kelly-Ann Baptiste, the  2011 world championship bronze 100 medalist with 2013's third-fastest time in the women's 100, reportedly failed a doping test and had withdrawn from the championships. "Drug Blow," screamed the front page of the Sunday Express, the West Indies' islands main paper.

The list of high-profile sprinters now known or believed to have failed doping tests this year alone: Gay, Baptiste and Jamaicans Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Baptiste, as the newspaper noted, trains in Gay's group in Florida. Campbell-Brown and Gay are longtime friends.

Last week, Australian javelin thrower Jarrod Bannister was suspended for 20 months for missing three out-of-competition tests; French hurdler Alice Decaux has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for a supplement.

Forty Turkish track and field athletes have been suspended in recent weeks for doping. Several are just teenagers.

And then there is Bolt -- who has said up and down, this way, that way, every which way that he is clean.

Marion Jones said she was clean, too. So did Lance Armstrong. Everybody says they're clean -- until they're proven not.

“If you’ve been following me since 2002, you would know I’ve been doing phenomenal things since I was 15,” Bolt said last month in London. “I was made to inspire people and made to run. I was given a gift, and that’s what I do.”

Is Bolt the real deal? Is he, finally, the one star the world can believe in?

Or -- like so many other big names who have been unmasked -- too good to be true?

Time ultimately reveals the truth. Always.

Four of the five top finishers in Sunday's men's 100 were Jamaicans: Nesta Carter, who took third behind Bolt and Gatlin in 9.95, as well as Kemar Bailey-Cole and Nickel Ashmeade, both in 9.98.

This from a country that saw its national anti-doping agency perform a total of 179 tests in all of 2012, according to a letter published Aug. 7 in the Jamaica Gleaner. That letter, from the former executive director of the agency, sought to update the figure published in late July in the World Anti-Doping Agency 2012 global statistics database. That 106 figure, R. Anne Shirley said in the letter to the Gleaner, was mistakenly low, due to a reporting error.

All tests carried out by the he Jamaican agency, which goes by the acronym JADCO, were urine tests; JADCO performed not even one blood test, according to the letter.

Arguing that 179 is "somewhat better than what has been previously reported," the letter also said it's still "not as much as the agency or the Government would have/might have wished for …"

At a news conference late Sunday night, Bolt was asked about his connection with the German doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, and whether he -- Bolt -- had ever used Actovegin, an amino acid preparation derived from calves' blood.

Actovegin is not on the WADA banned list.

Even so, WADA "closely monitors" its use. In part, that's because, for instance, Lance Armstrong and his team were regularly administered it on the grounds it was believed Actovegin would enhance a rider's performance, according to the brief against Armstrong filed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

"I don't know," Bolt said. "I really don't know the name of any substance. We just give that to my team. My team checks out any doubt. They clear it with everybody, make sure it's not on any IAAF, WADA [list] -- they have no problems with it."

So far, Bolt has had no testing problems.

Which leaves us with what we had Sunday in the rain:

Bolt, as ever, got off to a slow start. After the fiasco at the world championships in Daegu two years ago, in which he was disqualified for false-starting, it is his now way to stay in the blocks and make sure he starts safely.

Ashmeade, for instance, got out in 0.142 seconds. Bolt -- and Gatlin, too -- 0.163.

Gatlin went out hard. But anyone who has watched Bolt race since he burst onto the international scene big-time in 2008 knows that the last 50 meters are his for the taking, and that was the case Sunday as well.

Gatin acknowledged "feeling Bolt next to me" at about 45 meters. For his part, Bolt said, "I had to do what I do the last 50."

It was the sixth world title of Bolt's career -- two in the 100 (2013, 2009), two in the 200 (2009, 2011, with the 2013 race yet to come), two in the 4x100 relay (again, this year's relay still to go).

Of course, Bolt is the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion as well as world record-holder in the 100, 200 and the 4x100 relay.

It is not just that Bolt wins but that he does it with such dominance. Here are the margins of his 100-meter Olympic and world championship victories:

2008 Beijing Olympics: .20.

2009 Berlin worlds: .13.

2012 London Games: .12.

2013 Moscow worlds: .08.

"I'm going to try to continue with these championships," Bolt said. "I want to be among the greats after I retire from track and field.

"Pele, Maradona, Muhammad Ali, all these guys -- I want to be mentioned among these greats."

For all that he has done on the track, Usain Bolt absolutely, unequivocally deserves to be mentioned among the greats. The challenge for Usain Bolt is that he is the best in his sport, and his sport greatly deserves special scrutiny.

"If he tests positive, he tests positive," Lamine Diack, the president of track and field's international governing body, which goes by the acronym IAAF, said recently of Bolt. "It would be a disaster for our sport but we would have to say he is positive.

"But I hope that doesn't happen because we don't need that."