Kareem Streete-Thompson still wants Olympic gold and he has trimmed his life down to the basics in order to keep chasing it. No more legendary training partners. No more big-time coach. No more distractions. From now on, it’s just him, the track and his dreams. The Commonwealth Games bronze medalist feels he has arrived at a point where he must take the helm of his ship.
‘It was my experience in Athens that made me realize that this is best for me,’ Kareem said. ‘I’m just going to sprint now [100 and 200], no more long jump, so I don’t need a coach. I’ve been doing it for so long now that I know what I need to do.’
Kareem failed to make the 100 meter final in Athens but ran well enough in the first round against eventual gold medalist Justin Gatlin to convince himself that he still has something in the tank and his career is not over.
‘I am an eternal optimist. Every year that has gone by has given me something to fuel me and keep me going.’
The current doping scandal in track and field has directly implicated superstar Marion Jones. A San Francisco company named BALCO was allegedly distributing steroids and human growth hormone to elite athletes in track, baseball and football. BALCO owner Victor Conte publicly claimed that he sold illegal performance-enhancing drugs to Jones and even witnessed her injecting them on at least one occasion. Tim Montgomery, the 100 meter world record holder and father of a child with Jones, has already been suspended by the IAAF for using Conte’s potions. Both were Kareem’s training partners and they shared a coach, Dan Pfaff. They and others trained in the Cayman Islands a year ago.
Now, however, Kareem is no longer linked with them, he says. While he remains supportive and friendly with Jones, he admits his suspicions about the possibility of her using drugs have grown in recent months.
‘I can’t understand why Victor Conte would lie,’ said Kareem. ‘His goose is probably already cooked. He has nothing to gain or lose. I think he feels that if he is going down, he wants to take everybody down with him.’
According to Kareem, Jones is no longer with Dan Pfaff, the coach who was with her during her Cayman Islands training camp in January of 2004. She is now training in Virginia under the guidance of Steve Riddick, one of the world’s best sprinters back in the 1970s. Riddick also coaches Tonique Williams, the Bahamian 400m champ at the Athens Olympics.
‘She [Jones] felt like he [Pfaff] wasn’t giving her the results in the sprints. The long jump was working well but not in the sprints and that’s her bread and butter.’
Kareem says he never saw Conte with Jones or Montgomery during the period he was training with them.
He says he used one of Conte’s products, ‘ZMA’ a legal mineral supplement.
‘ZMA was very popular back around 2001 and 2002,’ he said. ‘I tried it for a while. ZMA is legal and it’s what he made his name with. But then, underneath all of that, he sold steroids to the people who had the big bucks and were willing to do anything to win.’
Kareem says he has not been tempted to use illegal performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
‘The reason I won’t do it is simple; I want to be able to sleep at night. If I was to take drugs it would bother me in so many ways. Look at Kelli [White, an admitted cheater in the BALCO scandal], she won the 200 [at the 2003 World Championships], crossed the finish line and she was like ‘so what?’.
‘I don’t want that. When I win a medal I want people to have to peel me off the track. I want to spend the night there celebrating. That’s what fuels me.’
Kareem says he is not worried about track and field losing its appeal as drug scandals continually batter it.
‘People still want to come out and see who can run fast and jump far,’ he said. ‘I think the sport is bigger than this stuff.’
Kareem has a best of 9.96 in the 100 meters, making him the only human other than Carl Lewis to have dipped under 10 second for the 100 and long jumped beyond 28 feet. He was a finalist in the 1999 World Championships 100 meters.
He says he also will compete in the 200 meters next season. Kareem has long believed that he has untapped potential in the 200.