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October 20, 2008
After winning Jamaica's first Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters, sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser and Usain Bolt returned to a party that is still jumping—from the slums of Kingston to the country roads in Trelawny
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October 20, 2008

Bringing It All Back Home

After winning Jamaica's first Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters, sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser and Usain Bolt returned to a party that is still jumping—from the slums of Kingston to the country roads in Trelawny

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And it was only the beginning. Fraser led a Jamaican sweep of the 100, and wins by Veronica Campbell-Brown in the 200 and Melaine Walker in the 400-meter hurdles punctuated the best-ever Olympic performance by Jamaican women. Bolt, meanwhile, not only won the 100 but also broke Michael Johnson's once-unbreakable world record of 19.32 in the 200 and then powered Team Jamaica to gold in a world-record time of 37.10 in the 4 × 100 final. Jamaica, suddenly, was the sprint capital of the world.

Two days later Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding opened his celebratory speech to the country by crying, "What a mighty people we are!" When the video board at Half-Way Tree—Kingston's Times Square—flashed its lineup of Jamaican heroes, dignified nation builders such as Marcus Garvey, Norman Manley and Paul Bogle were joined by Bolt, shooting his fingers at the sky.

Carr, meanwhile, found his fall program at Wolmer's swamped. At first none of the new girls wanted to run anything longer than 400 meters; Jamaicans like their races short and straight. "Everybody wants to run the 100," Carr says. "I had that problem with Shelly: She would not accept running the 400. It's a sprint, but kids here see it as long distance."

Practice time: We are sitting just off Wolmer's dirt track, its lane lines lost in a decade's growth of grass. More than 80 girls are stretching, sprinting, gasping. The 50-year-old Carr, a onetime disciple of Bolt's coach, Glen Mills, has been at Wolmer's for 20 years. Shelly-Ann came to him at 12, renowned for winning primary school races barefoot. An alumna, an elderly woman in New York City, paid the modest fee for her books.

Shelly-Ann called Carr two days after winning in Beijing. It was 3 a.m. in Kingston. "Coach, I did it," she said softly. Carr didn't jump as he had when he saw it live on TV, screaming so loudly that he disrupted a church service next door. He didn't cry as he had then, and he didn't say that he could well retire now, because what else is there for a Jamaican track coach to do after producing an Olympic champion? "Yes," Carr murmured. "Yes, my girl."

WE SHOW up at Kingston's Courtleigh Hotel early for our afternoon appointment, but Jamaica's antidoping czar is already there. Before we have a chance to ask a question, Dr. Herb Elliott asks what has happened to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. "How do you put this Carl Lewis thing in your magazine?" he says. "Carl is not known for his brain power. So how does SPORTS ILLUSTRATED quote this man without [saying] that this man is an idiot?"

It has, for five days now, been the nation's hottest topic. On Sept. 11 Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medalist, voiced to his suspicions about Bolt's performance in Beijing and about the integrity of Jamaica's antidoping program. He listed six men in history who have run sub-9.8 100s—Ben Johnson, Justin Gatlin, Tim Montgomery, Tyson Gay, Powell and Bolt—and noted that the first two tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and the third was banned after being linked to the BALCO scandal. "So when people ask me about Bolt," Lewis said, "I say he could be the greatest athlete of all time, but for someone to run 10.03 one year and 9.69 the next, if you don't question that ... you're a fool. Period."

No Jamaican sprinter tested positive in Beijing. Earlier this year the IAAF placed Jamaica fifth on its list of the 15 countries subjected to the most out-of-competition tests by the federation. But the nation's lack of a fully funded testing program, as well as its refusal to join the Caribbean Regional Anti-Doping Organization, sparked summer-long criticism that was further fueled on the eve of the Olympics by the national team's dismissal of sprinter Julien Dunkley, a relay reserve, for having tested positive at the Olympic trials in June.

In August, Jamaica agreed to set up its own antidoping program, but that news was drowned out in September by another report, which found that two sprinters from Jamaica's 2008 Olympic team, Delloreen Ennis-London and Adrian Findlay, had received shipments of banned performance-enhancing drugs at their U.S. homes as recently as early '07. Both athletes denied using the substances but did not deny receiving the shipments.

Still, these days it's Lewis who draws the most Jamaican fire. Today's Jamaica Gleaner contains letters criticizing the former Olympic champion, and the lead editorial in this morning's Daily Observer, titled POOR CARL LEWIS, dismisses him as mean-spirited and envious. Elliott, 68, a member of the IAAF medical and doping commission as well as the Jamaican Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA), insists that Jamaica has been serious about nailing drug cheats for the last 13 years. He notes that Powell's older brother Donovan tested positive for ephedrine in 1995 and that the JAAA nabbed sprinters Patrick Jarrett in 2001 and Steve Mullings in '04. In '08 Elliott adds, Bolt was tested out of competition four times, Powell six and Fraser three. "We have absolutely nothing to hide," Elliott says.

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