Olympic athletes set to shine through smog, doping scandals

PARIS, June 24, 2008 (AFP) – Beijing Games organisers will be hoping that the exciting crop of competitors in the blue riband event of athletics can dispel the sordid spectre of doping and provide a feast of top-class sport. Certainly, there is a raft of big-name draw cards and record-breakers for whom the stage is set to shine, despite worries about pollution levels in the Chinese capital at a time when temperatures and humidity are expected to be sweltering.

Defending men’s 100m champion Justin Gatlin will not be one of them, however, after failing in his bid to overturn a ban for testing positive in a drugs test.

Doping returned yet again this year to cast its ugly shadow over athletics, with five-time Olympic medallist Marion Jones jailed and stripped of her medals for lying to investigators about her use of performance enhancing drugs.

In the same case, Dennis Mitchell, Antonio Pettigrew and Jerome Young, all former Olympic gold medal relay runners on US teams, each admitted doping on Jamaican-born coach Trevor Graham’s advice.

US Olympic leaders vowed to send no dope cheats to the Beijing Olympics, with US Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth saying extra measures beyond a greater number of dop