RIO DE JANEIRO — Track and Field legend Michael Johnson has slammed the International Olympic Committee over the drug cheating scandal that is threatening to overshadow Rio 2016.
Speaking at a Los Angeles 2024 bid event, Johnson told The Daily Beast that the IOC was merely paying “lip-service” to tackling drug abusers who were destroying the reputation of the Olympics.
He said it was unfortunate that athletes like Lilly King and Mack Horton felt they were forced to personally confront athletes with a history of drug abuse because they had been failed by the organizations and federations charged with regulating Olympic sport.
“Some of them feel they need to say something—and maybe they shouldn’t have to say anything—they should be able to just focus on their competition,” he said. “I’m sure they would prefer that, and they feel they have to say something because it’s not being said by anyone else. I feel like that is a shame.”
Johnson won four Olympic gold medals for the United States in the 1990s and still holds the 1999 world record for the 400-meter sprint at 43.18 seconds.
Johnson called on the media not to be distracted by spectacular feats in the pool or on the track and declare the games to be a success without continuing to hold the governing bodies to account.
“No number of great performances is going to solve it—what will solve this problem is consistent moves in the right direction; transparency by the IOC; transparency by WADA [the world anti-doping agency]; transparency by CAS [the Court of Arbitration for Sport] and in the consistent making of the right decisions and the right moves instead of just lip-service that doping will not be tolerated,” he said.
“You’re not going to solve the problem by pointing your finger at an athlete and making that athlete the villain,” he later added. “The IOC, the IAAF, all of the federations—that’s where all of the ire should be pointed towards in order to bring about change.”
Johnson said he hoped that the IOC would have a grip on the doping crisis by the time the 2024 Olympics comes around. He hopes that games will be held in Los Angeles.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who lead a delegation from the bid committee, said the Olympics returning to the U.S. would ensure the games are protected by a safe pair of hands. He didn’t mention Rio’s difficulties, but the contrast was clear.
“We don’t have our Olympic infrastructure up on drawing boards it’s actually already in the ground,” he said. “2024 can make sure that we reduce the risk for the IOC… Instead of ongoing construction anxieties for the next seven years we can focus on what’s important.”
Johnson said it was crucial for athletes to have a stable and consistent games set up that allows them to focus on their events. The stable of athletes trained by his company, Michael Johnson Performance, have not had that experience in Rio.
“It’s been fairly smooth but somewhat inconsistent and I think that’s the biggest issue—the more I think about it—that’s a big issue for an athlete,” he said. “What you want is consistency if it’s up and down it makes it a bit tricky.”