Dope cheats should face criminal charges, says track legend Lewis

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2008, 12:00am

Carl Lewis has called on governments around the world to make the use of banned substances in sport a criminal offence.

Lewis, who won nine Olympic golds during a glittering career, told the BBC Sport website only urgent action could rescue athletics' drug-tarnished reputation.

'If people want a clean sport, we must bring together governments, the public and athletes,' he said.

'I would change the law - if you test positive, why can't it be illegal?'

Lewis' call comes against a backdrop of doping scandals that have left athletics on its knees - a depressing scenario with the Beijing Olympics only three months away.

Lewis, who was named 'Sportsman of the Century' by the International Olympic Committee, welcomes the US government's recent efforts to tackle the cancer of drugs in sport but wants lawmakers to go one step further by criminalising doping.

'We have to get people under oath and get the truth, instead of all the people who lie,' the 46-year-old American said.

Lewis (pictured), who himself failed three drugs tests in 1988 only to be cleared of any intentional wrongdoing, also urged today's clean athletes to speak out against any rivals they suspect of cheating.

'When I competed, I spoke out vehemently against drugs and everybody called me a tattletale,' he said. 'But look where our sport ended up when people stopped doing that.'

Lewis is also dismissive of the idea that athletes, suspicious of each other, are using illegal substances to level the playing field.

'The problem is that people choose to cheat. The likes of Dwain Chambers didn't have talent. He had to take drugs, he had to cheat.

'I'm tired of these people that don't have talent, then take drugs and try to blame everybody. The reality is that most athletes are clean, most athletes do it right and good athletes don't take drugs. People who don't have talent take drugs.'

British sprinter Chambers completed a two-year drugs ban in 2005 but, despite returning to athletics and winning a 60m silver medal in this year's world indoor championships, remains barred from the Olympics.