I was one of those Olympics gloomsters who, as Boris Johnson gleefully pointed out when the Games had finished, were scattered and routed by the rip-roaring success of London 2012. I assumed something would go wrong; everything went right. I thought people would complain about the cost; no one seems to have begrudged a penny. It was a triumph: I accept that now. But in one respect I still refuse to buy it. Before the Olympics began there were fears that the event would be overshadowed by a drugs scandal or by the steady drip-drip of multiple failed drugs tests. In the end, although a few athletes were caught (including the winner of the gold in the women’s shot put and an American judo competitor who blamed his positive marijuana test on eating the wrong cakes), the Games were more or less drugs-free. There were some dark rumours early on about the Chinese teenage swimming sensation Ye Shiwen, but she passed her tests and kept her medals; Colin Moynihan, the chairman of the British Olympic Association, declared that she was a natural talent and told the doubters to shut up. These Games were ‘clean’, which was a big part of the success story. That’s what makes me suspicious. In an event on this scale, where the stakes are so high for competitors and organisers alike, an absence of failed drugs tests does not prove no one is cheating. More likely it indicates that no one is really looking.
LRB 22 November 2012 | PDF Download