When Usain Bolt crosses the 100m finish line at this weekend's world championships, inevitably flashing a smile as large as his winning margin, his legacy as one of the world's greatest athletes will seem undeniable.

Bolt will head into retirement with eight Olympic gold medals, 11 wins at the world championships (plus whatever he can add in the next week) and a couple of almost unbeatable records. He will leave a significant hole in the athletics world and, for some time, represent the level to which budding sprinters aspire.

And inevitably in some cynical corners of the sporting world, Bolt will exit competition with a trace of suspicion that mars an otherwise unimpeachable career.

Is it fair that, due to the extent of his dominance, a fair few will remain wary of elevating Bolt to legendary status, considering over the course of his career he's never failed a doping test and any perceived guilt can be adjudged only by association? Probably not.


But will that change the view of a segment of the sporting fanbase, those who have previously been burned by believing the hype and are now unwilling to subscribe to fairytales based on outstanding sporting achievement? Definitely not.

That's the reality of sport in 2017, when fans have long been savvy enough to know that an athlete failing no tests means precisely nothing, fans who have heard that trite excuse uttered just as readily as it's refuted.

Consider the following statistic a Rorschach test for how Bolt is regarded: Of the 30 fastest men's 100m times ever recorded, only nine have been run by an athlete who has not since served a drugs ban - and all nine times sit alongside the apparently pure name of Bolt.

Those who regard the Jamaican as clean, as a rare role model in a tainted sport, will see that statistic as proving Bolt's peerless status. The other side of the debate, however, will see it as an almighty coincidence.

It's clear where the athletics world stands. That sport, after the travails of the Rio Olympics, when an entire nation was absent from competition, aches for Bolt to be a shining beacon amid the doping gloom.

Which is why there have been prominent calls for Bolt to be made a Knight of the British Empire, joining the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Mo Farah.

Readers who have opted for healthy paranoia rather than blind Pollyanna will know those two names weren't chosen by accident - and the rest should know Bolt is far from alone when it comes to contemporary greats being treated in some quarters with a dose of scepticism.

For Farah, also set to retire after the London championships, it was the charge that the middle-distance runner was "likely doping", a label applied in 2015 by none other than the International Association of Athletics Federations and recently made available after Russian hacks.

And for Wiggins, who last year bowed out of cycling, it was more hacked documents that showed his reliance on a therapeutic use exemption to allay hayfever symptoms, treating the problem with a drug described as "utterly bonkers" by the head of the Scottish Centre for Respiratory Research.

Again, as with Bolt, it's potentially unfair to include two ostensibly clean athletes when discussing the scourge of performance-enhancing drugs in sport.

But if it is unfair, what about the rest? What about the sportsmen who cheat and subsequently reap the fame and fortune that comes with sporting success?

What about those near-mythological figures who, once the curtain is pulled back, are eventually revealed as nothing more than deceitful men?