His sprinting feats may border on the superhuman but Usain Bolt insists he alone cannot rescue athletics from a crisis wreaked by a torrent of doping allegations.
Bolt’s status as supposed saviour has been amplified by a simmering rivalry with drug cheat Justin Gatlin, his chief rival at the World Championships, which start in Beijing on Saturday.
“People say I need to win for my sport,” said the Jamaican, who is defending his 100m and 200m titles. “There are a lot of other athletes out here running clean and that have run clean throughout their career.
“It’s not only on me because I can’t do it by myself. It’s the responsibility of all the athletes to help to save the sport, to show the sport can go forwards.”
Bolt admits he is powerless to prevent Gatlin competing, the American having served his doping bans, and says he is saddened by the one of the sport’s main events being overshadowed by scandal.
He added: “It’s really taking centre stage. All I’ve been hearing over the past couple of weeks is doping, doping, doping; the majority of the questions are about doping. It’s sad it’s at the forefront of a World Championships and not the competition that’s coming up ahead.”
Lamine Diack, the outgoing president of troubled world governing body the IAAF, attempted to play down fears of a tainted championships by insisting that doping allegations have been wildly overstated.
“I have 200 tests positive and 2,800 that are negative. You focus on the bad news, that is the 200 positive tests,” said Diack, who is to be succeeded by Britain’s Lord Coe later this month.
“We can’t afford to have our performances being in doubt. If there is any doubt, that’s the end of it. But we are convinced 99 per cent of our athletes are clean.”