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Athletics losing drugs battle, says 400m legend

LEGEND WITH A VIEW: Michael Johnson

TRACK AND field legend Michael Johnson is of the opinion that athletics will never be totally drug-free. The former 400m runner told the BBC Sport website: "Athletics is a microcosm of real life."

"In real life you will always have people who cheat. It's unrealistic to expect athletics to be drug-free," the American added.

Johnson, who won 4x400m gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games, the 200m and 400m double in Atlanta four years later, and the 400m title in Sydney in 2000, believes the Olympics is the saving grace of athletics but thinks the sport needs to adapt in order to improve its appeal.

In recent times some of Jamaica's track and field stars have been caught up in drugs-related controversy, including former 100m world-record holder Asafa Powell and 2004 Olympic sprint relay champion Sherone Simpson, who both subsequently tested positive for banned substances earlier this year.

"Other sports may have fans that can put up with [doping] but in athletics the fans want to see the Olympians hold true to the Olympic ideal and values," said the athlete dubbed 'Superman' during his pomp.

"To be honest, if it weren't for the Olympics, athletics would be dead. Off the face of the earth. Everyone loves to see people have a race but we're seeing too much emphasis placed on world records and not on the battle between the athletes.

"We must look closely at the sport and see what it is that people actually want to watch. Do we need the women's discus? A 3000m steeplechase and 5000m at the same meeting? Nothing has happened to change the sport in my time.

"We need to look at a new format, package it better to engage more fans. Other sports have done it to increase their fan base, why can't athletics?"

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