Mumbai: Former world champion long jumper Mike Powell feels that it is a blessing in disguise that athletes who are using banned drugs are being caught by the regulatory authorities.
"If you look at it, it's a good thing. It shows we are taking this seriously. Athletics is one of the few sports which is willing to burst its stars. As of now, if you try to use something now you are taking a big, big risk," Powell, currently the brand ambassador of the world athletics body IAAF told reporters here.
Six track and field athletes, including two Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medallists Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose, flunked dope tests for anabolic steroids in just two days.
"Athletics is at the forefront of any sport in the world as far as taking control to eliminate performance enhancing drugs. It's a necessary evil. We have to do it. I know for sure the culture is a lot different now," the 47-year-old Philadelphian said.
The IAAF today signed a 10-year deal with realty firm Nirmal Lifestyle to promote the mother sports in India.
However Powell, who broke compatriot Bob Beamon's 23-year-old record set at the 1968 Mexico Olympics advocates life bans for offenders.
"I think if you are using drugs, you should be banned for life," he stated.
Powell is happy to know that Anju Bobby George who was under his tutelege eight years back is making a comeback post motherhood eyeing a berth in the squad for London 2012.
"Anju is a very talented athlete. If she is healthy, then she has a chance. She is very competitive. When women have children and come back they have a little more strength and determination too. It's worth a try for her.
"I helped her win a world championship medal (bronze) in 2003 (at Paris). Good luck to Anju. I am very happy for her," said Powell, whose rivalry with Carl Lewis lit up the long jump pit in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Powell declared that it was the continued excellence of Lewis on the long jump pit that paved the way for him to leapfrog Beamon's long-standing record.
The respect for Beamon is still there in Powell's voice. "He (Beamon) broke the world record by 55 cms. It was an amazing feat that he did. It stood that long. Fortunately, Carl Lewis was able to let people feel that it's possible. He was the motivation for me to do it," said Powell, who improved on Beamon's land mark by five cms.
Powell sounded sad that currently there is no long jump rivalry that could come close to what existed amongst Lewis, himself, compatriot Larry Myricks and Cuban Ivan Pedroso in the early 1990s.
"It's sad to see the event where it's now. Some of the best athletes who have competed in the sport have been in long jump. Jesse Owens, Bob Beamon and Carl Lewis. I just think everything goes in cycles. Hopefully this is the down cycle for it now and will get the event go up again," he said.
Powell said it was because of a tactical error and the greater experience of Lewis that he lost the gold medal at the Barcelona Games despite being deemed favourite to win the yellow metal.
"I should have won, but there was a strategic mistake on my part. And that's why Carl Lewis is a legend. Because he knew how to handle every situation. He's used to competing in Olympics. It was his third Olympics; he had won how many gold medals by then."
"For me that was the first time that I was a star. It was different for me. It's one thing to have success but it's harder to stay up there," said Powell, who picked up a silver each in the 1988 (Seoul) and 1992 Games behind gold medalist Lewis.