Former sprint star Darren Campbell believes this summer’s Rio Olympics needs to be clean for athletics to restore its reputation.
A cloud is hanging over the sport with Russia provisionally suspended from the games after a report found evidence of state sponsored doping.
Governing body the IAAF has come under fire as it looks to salvage the sport’s reputation but Campbell insists it is possible for there to be no positive tests in Brazil.
Speaking as the star guest at the Lancaster and Heysham School Sports Network’s annual Primary Schools PE and Sport Conference at Salt Ayre, he said: “I think a great success would be no-one testing positive in Rio.
“It needs to be possible otherwise the story at the games will be all about that person whether it’s one, two or three that tested positive.
“We need a totally clean Olympic Games from the athletics perspective.
“We want it clean on the whole spectrum but right now I’m not one of those pretending it’s not happening in my sport. It’s happening in my sport and we need a clean games this year.”
Campbell told teachers at the conference about his journey from a single-parent home on a Manchester council estate to Olympic gold in the 4x100m relay in Athens in 2004.
Always outspoken about drugs, he admits to fearing for the sport’s future and hopes children will sill be inspired as he was by American great Carl Lewis as a 12-year-old.
He said: “I’m disappointed.
“The sport has given me so much and I want other people to experience that.
“People who’ve got the same dreams I had as a 12-year-old. I want young people to have a fair opportunity to go out and try and achieve their dreams.
“It’s tough when you know that people you’re racing against are cheating.
“Sport’s not in a great place. It can recover, I’d like us to try and recover quicker.
“It would be good to hear the personal thoughts of the people that are there to create to change.
“I want to hear that they’re passionate about it because that’s what we need right now.
“We need to hear that athletics can be clean and that people can still aspire to compete in the Olympic games.”
Having hit heights in athletics Campbell now divides his time between ambassadorial work for a number of organisations including the Sky Academy, his own supplements company and TV and radio work.
He says telling his story, which saw him overcome the odds to reach the top, gives him as much joy as his exploits on the track.
Campbell, who followed in the footsteps of Iwan Thomas and Premier League referee Howard Webb as a speaker at the event, said: “Nobody every really warns you that when you finish as a professional sports person it’s about finding something that replaces it.
“I think even as a sprinter I wanted to inspire so that doesn’t change it’s just a different way in a different field.
“It wasn’t until after I retired that I realised for certain people it had touched them watching me run and it had inspired them.
“Being able to share the story is a similar reward if I’m totally honest.”
Campbell, who also had a brief career in semi-professional football, took particular joy in talking to teachers knowing the vital role they can play as role models.
He said: “They can play a massive role and that’s why I like to come to events like this.
“My kids are inspired by their teachers and they can’t be the only ones like that.
“Sometimes it’s important that they know that because when things get bad knowing that might help keep them going.”
The School Sports Network is made up of a large number of our district’s primary schools.
The conference provided updates on the latest PE and funding guidance delivered by organisers Steven Jamieson and Tim Fletcher as well as Campbell’s inspirational talk.
Josh Naylor, an Our Lady’s sixth form pupil, also led one of the network tables to groups of primary school teachers.
Josh, who suffers from a number of ailments including Cerebral Palsy, is involved in Sports Leadership and plays football for the Lancashire Cerebral Palsy team.