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Defying the Olympic Spirit

PERSPECTIVES

Saturday evening, Canada's Donovan Bailey won the gold medal in the men's 100 meters and broke the world record in a race that had been dubbed the greatest lineup in Olympic history.

Since Bailey crossed the finish line at a time of 9.84 seconds, reporters, announcers and commentators have rejoiced in Canada's vindication after the gold medal was stripped from runner Ben Johnson for drug use in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

But what seems to have been forgotten in the jubilee, or at least not discussed by the reporters, is that Bailey may have won a race that should never have taken place.

While some celebrate Bailey's remarkable feat, we should all mourn the injustice that was served to British runner Linford Christie.

Christie, the 1992 Olympic champion in the 100 meters, was ejected from the race after two false starts. It was the third false start of the event--the first was by Christie and the second by Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago.

Traditionally, a false start occurs when a runner starts before the starter pistol fires. But advances in technology have led to these errors being registered by a sensor attached to the starting block and connected to the starter.

If an athlete's start registers under 0.100 seconds, the level declared to be unbeatable by scientific tests of human ability, the starter receives a beep in his headset to notify him of the false start, and he fires again to halt the race.

Christie's start was reportedly 0.086 seconds, and a red flag was placed at his block signaling his disqualification.

Upon discovering that he was the false starter, Christie was astonished and removed the red flag from his block, refusing to leave the lane of his last major track event.

The crowd voiced its support for Christie, and replays of the start showed no visible violation on Christie's part.

But a few minutes later an official approached Christie and persuaded him to leave amid fierce protests from the crowd. Talking to nearby spectators, Christie said, "I don't fucking believe this."

Neither do I.

I am no fan of Linford Christie--ever since he beat Carl Lewis, I have hated him--but I was near tears after he was forced to leave the track.

This Olympic champion, one of the fastest men on the planet, was not allowed to run in what may have been the race of his life.

Why?

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