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26 Jul, 2022 11:56

Sprint icon accused of being ‘black racist’

Michael Johnson was pilloried online for comments made about Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan
Sprint icon accused of being ‘black racist’

Track and field legend Michael Johnson, who is black, has hit out after being accused of 'racism' for questioning the spate of record times run at the recent World Championships in Oregon, including that of Nigerian hurdler Tobi Amusan.

Johnson, a four-time Olympic gold medal winner who also won eight World Championship titles in his career, said in his role as a television pundit and on social media that he suspected faulty timing clocks may be to blame after Amusan smashed the 100m women's hurdles world record in her semi-final, while half of the rest of the field also recorded personal best times.

Amusan had appeared as shocked as anyone at breaking the record which was set by American Kendra Harrison in 2016 by 0.08 seconds, in a run which was almost three tenths of a second faster than she had ever registered before in her career.

Johnson, though, was skeptical and took to social media shortly after to express his opinion.

I don’t believe 100h times are correct,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “World record broken by .08! 12 PBs set. 5 National records set. And Cindy Sember quote after her PB/NR ‘I throughly [sic] I was running slow!’ All athletes looked shocked.”

Heat 2 we were first shown winning time of 12.53. Few seconds later it shows 12.43. Rounding down by .01 is normal. .10 is not,” he later added.

Amusan ran even faster in the final, recording a time of 12.06 - though this didn't count towards a world record as it was wind-assisted.

The Nigerian later said that the brand of footwear she was wearing, which were designed for longer distances and which she wore due to suffering from an injury to her heel, may have assisted her in her time.

It was the second time in a week that a hurdler had broken a world record wearing similar shoes.

Johnson, though, was accused of attempting to discredit Amusan's record.

“Michael Johnson Are you naturally this dumb or do you have to put in effort?” one person wrote on Twitter.

“Why don't you channel your energy to recovering from your stroke you Black racist! Toby Amusan is a world record holder and there's nothing you can do about that.”

Another wrote: “If Michael Johnson had an issue with the timer or clock, he would have just rewatched and verified with his own timer or sumn. But nope, he had to open his mouth waaa and discredit Tobi Amusan's win.”

“The level of dumbassery coming across my feed right now is truly staggering!” countered Johnson online, also adding the torrent of accusations being slung his way was unacceptable”

“As a commentator my job is to comment. In questioning the times of 28 athletes (not 1 athlete) by wondering if the timing system malfunctioned, I was attacked, accused of racism, and of questioning the talent of an athlete I respect and predicted to win. Unacceptable. I move on.”

Johnson is no stranger to world records, or indeed what it takes to achieve them.

The 54-year-old is generally regarded as being one of the best sprinters in history and previously held world records in the 200m and 400m, and was also the only male athlete to have won both of those events at the same Olympics - a feat he achieved in Atlanta in 1996. 

He has worked as a pundit for the BBC since 2001.