Usain Bolt, Lance Armstrong and the Duck Test

Tom Rivers
23 min readSep 23, 2016

AUGUST 2019 UPDATE — since I wrote this article over three years ago, it’s been read and discussed a lot, which is fantastic. There now seems to be more scrutiny around Bolt (also great) but with the benefit of hindsight there are a few things in here that I’ve updated. Mostly to be more rigorous with the data available, but the main update is a section about Bolt’s physique and him being a genetic ‘freak’ (the number one response as a defense of Bolt’s ludicrously fast track times). Updated sections are clearly marked.

“When people ask me about Bolt, 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 in a sport that has the reputation it has right now, you’re a fool. Period.” Carl Lewis

Usain Bolt; the fastest person ever timed. 11 times world champion, 9 time gold medalist at the Olympics (the Treble Treble); the first ever man to hold both the 100m and 200m world records.

Oh and he also holds the world record for the 4x100 (thanks team).

So then, not just a champion, the greatest champion in the three events he competes in the world has ever seen. That last sentence bears dwelling on — Usain Bolt has not only beaten his fellow world class athletes, he has set seemingly game-changing records in the course of becoming the best.

And yet, despite the number of fellow competitors that have received various different bans for illegal doping, Usain Bolt has remained relatively immune to both criticism and also, importantly, scrutiny. In a sport marred, bruised and almost broken by scandal, Bolt has emerged in the eyes of fans and press alike as a shining beacon of achievement, but also charm, charisma and a laid back attitude that has turned the starting blocks from a place of intense and unwavering concentration into a pre-race competition of who can appear the most relaxed and joyous.

He’s transformed a sport almost single handedly. Surely with that should come a level of scepticism that accompanies all sportsmen that take part in sports that have a murky track record at best in terms of chemically driven unfair advantages. And yet, he doesn’t.

Tom Rivers

Start ups, science, geekdom, Arnie.