Four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson said Monday morning that he was “accused of assault and racism” after questioning the accuracy of athletes’ times recorded at the world athletics championships in Oregon.
Johnson, a black former US track and field star who won eight world championship gold medals in his career, was questioned on BBC broadcasts and on social media after Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan set a world record in the 100m hurdles semi-final with a time of 12.12. seconds
Amusan herself seemed stunned by her timing. She broke the previous world record set by American Kendra Harrison in 2016 by 0.08 seconds.
Johnson, 54, then took to Twitter on Sunday to question the timing of the setback.
“I don’t believe 100 hours is right,” Johnson tweeted. “.08 broke the world record! 12 PB sets. Set 5 national records. And Cindy Sember quoted after her PB/NR ‘I was totally [sic] I was going slow!’ to the shock of all the athletes.”
“Heat 2 we were first shown a winning time of 12.53. After few seconds it shows 12.43. Dropping by .01 is normal. No .10,” he added in a separate tweet.
Amusan won the final with a fastest time of 12.06. Meanwhile, critics on Twitter called Johnson “dumb” over his comments – with one person accusing him of “disrespecting” her victory.
“You black racist, why don’t you spend your energy recovering from your stroke!” A Twitter user wrote to Johnson, according to the Daily Mail. “Toby Amuson is a world record holder and there is nothing we can do about it.”
That same day, Johnson tweeted, “The level of dumbassry on my feed right now is truly astounding!”
Then, early on Monday, Johnson defended his job as a BBC pundit and called allegations of alleged racism “unacceptable”.
“My job as a commentator is to comment,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “In questioning 28 athletes (not one athlete) asking if the timing system was broken, I was attacked, accused of racism and questioned the talent of an athlete I respect and predict will win. Unacceptable. I go ahead.”
Johnson also pointed out on the broadcast that 12 of the 24 semifinalists in the women’s 100-meter hurdles had record personal best times.
Amusan was one of many athletes who broke world records or surpassed their own best times. On Friday, 22-year-old American Sydney McLaughlin broke her world record in the 400m hurdles by 0.73 seconds in 50.68 seconds and won the first gold medal of her career.
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