Two of Richard Moore’s finest books, In Search of Robert Millar and The Dirtiest Race in History have each dealt competently – and comprehensively – with a problem that has plagued sport for more than a century: drug-taking and its beneficial, if short-term, impact upon athletic performance.
Doping is an area in which Moore has form, a status which qualifies him to assert, correctly, in The Bolt Supremacy, that the greater the sports-loving public’s distance from an athlete, or a group of them, the easier it is to form an entrenched opinion regarding his, or their, propensity to cheat.
This observation, made early in Moore’s book, puts him on thin ice, a ploy which succeeds in retaining readers’ attention. Yet the author knows that to make any assertions relating to cheating without undertaking comprehensive research and cross-checking would be foolish in the extreme. Writers must be careful before making accusations; they require mountains of irrevocable proof that their suspicions are, in fact, accurate, because once an accusation is made, it cannot be withdrawn.
Concerned about the acute degree of scepticism shown by nine-time Olympic gold medallist Carl Lewis towards the incredible performances of Jamaican sprinters, and of CBS columnist Dan Bernstein, who wrote, “Anyone wasting words extolling the greatness of Usain Bolt should know better,” Moore sensibly sets off to Jamaica to investigate for himself.
As if there are not enough barriers already, modern-day investigative writers have another enemy with which to contend: social media which, in Moore’s view (also correct), makes “no distinction between facts and conjecture, opinion and evidence.”
Moore presents the evidence of alleged wrong-doing objectively, supporting his conclusions with as much proof as he can, speaking with the former executive director of Jamaica’s Anti-Doping Commission ( who confirms that three high-profile sprinters tested positively for drugs), as well as a German doctor who frequently injects athletes with Actovegin, but maintains there is nothing wrong with it.
Ultimately, readers of a sceptical bent may conclude that even some of sport’s most revered performers have been unveiled as cheats; after all, someone had to start by questioning Lance Armstrong’s performances before his intricate web of deception unravelled. Others will point to the IAAF’s anti-doping report which found that in 2012, the top three ranked countries in terms of tested athletes were Russia, Kenya and Jamaica, with Usain Bolt tested, on average, every two weeks.