How's this for a plotline.
There's a good guy in town. He has superhuman powers. He's kept the public safe, he's given them hope. He's shown them the light, that they can achieve anything by doing things the right way. He's a role model to children who have his posters plastered over their walls. Adults either want to date him or buy him a drink. He's a superhero.
Every superhero needs a nemesis. A bad guy. He's been genetically mutated in order to gain superpowers. He was running the town long before the hero turned up. Shaking everyone down for whatever he could. Like an abusive partner, they became numb to his ways, beginning to accept his actions as part of life... it was just the way things were... until the hero arrived to save them.
An almighty battle takes place with the winner determining the fate of all man kind
Now that could be the top-line to any superhero movie, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman. But the story I'm alluding to features a new superhero, one powered by Chicken Nuggets and Dancehall music. He's clad in yellow lycra and goes by the name of Bolt, Usain 'Lightening' Bolt.
This week an Usain Bolt film has been announced, made by the men behind Class Of '92, Ben and Gabe Turner at Fulwell 73. The film will follow Usain as he heads towards the Rio Olympics next year and his retirement season in 2017. The story line above could well be what we see played out in this movie.
But we've already seen act one and two of this blockbuster.
Justin Gatlin dominated the sprint events from 2003 to 2006. We knew he was a dubious character - he'd already served a doping ban in 2001 for amphetamines (something he attributed to medication for his ADHD) - but claiming Olympic 100m gold in 2004 and World 100m and 200m gold in 2005, we put him on a pedestal. Athletics fans needed a new icon with Michael Johnson retired and Maurice Green in the twilight of his career.
In 2006 it was shown that our trust was misjudged. Gatlin failed a second drugs test.
When you want to believe something, it's very easy to find a way to justify it. For year I thought professional wrestling was real. I justified wrestlers not walking out of the ring black and blue after being punched in the face 40 times is so many ways - they didn't hit full-on because they had fights every night and it would hurt their hands; there was a special 'wrestling' punch they had to throw that had maximum impact and minimal damage; they had really hard heads. If someone wanted to argue the matter I would have a whole bag full of answers.
The same can be said for Gatlin. It's easy to believe that his first suspension was down to his medication. But in sport, when something is as crucial to your participation as 'staying clean' is, one must assume that professional athletes must take all the precautions possible. When you've already served a ban, that you're protesting, checking everything that goes into your body should be as important as the reps you do in the gym.
Gatlin testing positive for a second time makes it's hard to believe that something untoward wasn't going on. In recent years other big name sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell have both fallen foul of doping tests, not to mention countless other athletes who have been banned. A German documentary released last year accused 99% of the Russian national team of doping. In a sport plagued with drug taking, when someone is caught twice, it's hard to convince yourself it was a coincidence, even for someone who though pro wrestling was real.
Bolt's dominance in the sprints since he first experimented with the 100m in 2008 is well documented. He's the biggest name in the sport, by a long way, longer than his victories even. As a life long fan and participant of the sport, I again find it easy to convince myself that Bolt is doing things the right way. The facts point to it. Well, in my mind they do.
As a junior he was incredibly dominant. He won the World Junior Championship at the age of 15 (he was competing against 19 year olds) in 20.61 after running 20.58 in the heats of the competition. His progress was steady, but was hindered by injury as he moved into the senior ranks. (I recently re-watch the 2007 World Championships 200m final and saw Bolt, coming back from several years of injury, coming second to Tyson Gay - it did look strange seeing the superhero look almost human - he still ran 19.9). In 2008, his coach Glenn Mills allowed Bolt to try the 100m and the rest of the story is etched into the history books.
This sort of form from an early age makes it easy(er) to buy that a man can run such phenomenal times. He's never been linked to any doping scandals (publically at least); he's inspired atheletes and fans alike. He's has finally given us hope that the sport so many of us love, can be represented by a superhero who can competeand set records in the right way. Clean. He's opened the sport up to a new audience. People who would not have watched athletics now do, because of him. Few athletes can ever say that they have transcended their sport, but Bolt has.
If Bolt were ever found to be doping, after such a long run of dominance and eye watering performances, it would undoubtedly destroy the sport.
The next sixteen months will define the legacy he leaves behind.
Bolt, for the first time since 2008, had an off season. He competed sparingly due to injury, and none of his times were worthy of the legacy he's building. He hung up his spikes for the winter in July. Gatlin, on the other hand had a belter. He demolished every field he was in and set PB's/age world bests for the 100m and 200m. At 31, it seemed like he was just coming into his prime.
Bolt has already announced that the Rio Olympics next year will be his last Olympics. He's not been shy about his ambition to be a "living legend" and anything less than three gold medals at this years World Championships and in Rio will certainly tarnish his impeccable record.
If he runs 'classic' Bolt races, no one, not even Gatlin on his best day can come close. And that's what we hope for. But if he's not firing on all cylinders, if he does miss a step, if there is a problem with his preparation, Gatlin could surprise us all. He's proved that he's a championship performer.
Bolt opened up his season earlier this month with 20.20 over 200m and 10.12 (into a -1.3m/s wind) in the 100m. 10.12 is his slowest ever time in a 100m final and Bolt said after the race that he "didn't feel himself". Even in unfavorable conditions and early in the season, it would be understandable if his supporters are a little nervous.
We need Bolt to win. Even with all the doping scandals, Bolt is still dragging the sport out of the mud, allowing fans to believe it's all real, that superheroes do exist. When the credits come down on Bolts career the his film, who will be standing tall, ruling the world of athletics? The hero, or the villain?