1 Aug 2012

Bannister praises ‘enormous advances’ in anti-doping

It was described as the “Everest of athletics”. Almost 60 years after Sir Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile he talks to Channel 4 News about sporting barriers, the Olympics and doping.

It was 6 May 1954 when a young Roger Bannister ran into the record books as the first man to break the 4-minute mile barrier.

“It was a bad day when I tried it – rain, wind and a soggy track,” Sir Roger told Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Three-quarters of the way through the race, Sir Roger was running one second off 4-minute mile pace.

“I was conscious I had to do the last lap in 59 seconds or under which was a tall order but I just managed it.

“I felt that, as in many of my races, I had given almost more of myself than I possessed and that was the trick which was needed in order to break it.”

London 2012

Fifty-eight years after his 4-minute milestone Sir Roger carried the Olympic torch in his home town of Oxford as well as attending the London 2012 opening ceremony.

There had been speculation he may light the Olympic flame: “I had my moment carrying the torch in Oxford … I was entirely happy and enjoyed the ceremony thoroughly,” he said.

“I think it was a very neat solution to have Steve Redgrave handing to young people who’d been nominated by athletes. I thought that gave the right kind of balance because the Olympics belongs to the youth of the world and it’s hoped they’ll light a fuse around the world which will increase participation.”

Read more: Alternative Olympics - interactive medals table

Doping controversy

Questions have been asked about Chinese gold medal-winning swimmer Ye Shiwen’s outstanding performance in the 400m individual medley.

But Sir Roger Bannister refused to share any concerns: “The World Against Drug Agency (Wada) has made enormous advances and I believe the balance has now tipped so that a few people only will take drugs and believe they can get away with it.

“The random testing during training and the number of tests of all those winning medals has raised the battle against drugs to a higher level.”