The nine-time Olympic gold medalist is an actor in L.A. and will
appear in the upcoming film Tournament of Dreams.
SI: What do people expect when you come in to audition?
Lewis: They expect me to be terrible, and I understand that. A
lot of athletes have been good. A lot have been not so good. Now
that I have some good work behind me, people are surprised.
SI: Which athlete turned actor do you want to emulate?
Lewis: Merlin Olsen. He transitioned all the way.
SI: You recently appeared on a Wheaties box for the first time.
Nice honor for a 43-year-old, right?
Lewis: Tremendous. Because it's eight years after my last
Olympics and it represents my body of work.
SI: Did you ever speak to Ben Johnson after he tested positive
for steroids at the 1988 Olympics?
Lewis: No. I always separated sports and my personal life. People
said I was arrogant and antisocial. But I was like, "A track meet
is work. I'm here to kick your ass, and then I'll go home and
play with my friends."
SI: Why has track been so fraught with cheating?
Lewis: People have a moral standard about what they will do and
will not do. At the end of the day someone who cheats has a lower
moral standard than someone who does not. And they will cheat in
other areas of life as well. But some of these athletes would
never get into that situation if a coach didn't have a strong
influence over them. Ben Johnson would not have gotten on drugs
without a Charlie Francis. So why don't we go after the coaches,
too? [Francis] is still hanging around. This guy should be out of
the sport completely.
SI: Why is the 100-meter dash so popular?
Lewis: Because everyone can finish it, and everyone at some point
has raced to see who was the fastest.
SI: It wouldn't be a Carl Lewis interview if we didn't try to
coax you into taking another shot at singing the national anthem.
Lewis: [Laughs.] It used to drive me crazy, getting ragged about
that. But I'm in Hollywood now. Any press is good press. So keep
on ragging me.
For more from Carl Lewis, go to si.com/siexclusive.