The world of sports, and that of athletics in particular, is facing a doping epidemic. Almost everyday, there is a case of an athlete testing positive for a banned substance.
It was a bit ironic that one of the finest and cleanest athletes of all times, long-jumper Mike Powell, landed in India this week to the unpleasant news of many Commonwealth and Asian Games stars being found guilty of doping offences. Eight Indian athletes have failed dope tests in the last week.
“When an athlete is caught, ban him for life,” is what the long jump world record holder Powell, of the United States, had to say on being asked, how should cases of doping be handled.
But, he went on to add, “Be it business, politics or any profession, there always are a few people who cheat. Similarly, in sports, a small minority consume steroids or other banned substances. And you cannot stop it completely. When a doping incident breaks out, it is big and it is ugly.”
Powell said could not believe that his long jump record (8.95m) has lasted so long. But, at the same time, he felt 'honoured and blessed'.
“At that time (in 1991), I was focussed on beating Carl Lewis and when I broke the world record, it was the best moment of my life,” said Powell, who was pleased that he achieved the feat in front of 80,000 people.
Powell bettered Bob Beamon's record at the World Championships in 1991 in a head-on battle with Lewis that is considered the greatest duel in athletics.
The journey has not been easy thanks to Lewis. Powell, who is one of the most humble athletes, said, “Even though I have the record, Carl (Lewis) is the greatest long jumper of all time.” Powell went through extreme emotions while competing against Lewis. He says, "It was a privilege to compete against him but it was horrible too, because he made it so difficult.” The biggest positive trait one can attach to Powell is his 'never-say-die attitude'. He says, "I believe that a contest is not over, till it actually is over".
All great athletes have someone, without whom they would not have achieved what they actually end up with. Mike Powell has his maternal grandmother and his famous coach, Randy Huntington, as the two cornerstones of his achievements.
Powell always remembers his grandmother's words, "If you do good to people, good things happen to you".
“Randy is the person most responsible for me soaring 8.95m,” he said.