Olympic track and field legend Carl Lewis slams system that’s failing relay athletes

  • The U.S. men’s 4x100m relay team finished sixth in its semifinal on Thursday and failed to qualify for the final. 
  • “The federation sets up the teams, and the coaches and the system, and they’re failing the athletes,” said Carl Lewis, who won the 4×100 Olympic gold medal twice and seven other golds.
  • Lewis told host Shepard Smith that the issue boils down to the athletes’ lives, and that he will always advocate for them. 

Olympic track and field legend Carl Lewis told CNBC that he stands "100 percent" by his criticism of Team USA's men's 4x100m relay team after it finished sixth in its semifinal on Thursday and failed to qualify for the final. 

He emphasized, however, that his ire was not directed towards the athletes, but towards the U.S. relay program that put the teams together. 

"The federation sets up the teams, and the coaches and the system, and they're failing the athletes," said Lewis, who won the 4×100 Olympic gold medal twice and seven other golds.

"That's why I was so emotional and so angry, because these athletes work their whole lives, they run fast and doing everything to make the team and then you put them in a position that's impossible to be successful."

Americans Trayvon Bromell, Fred Kerley, Ronnie Baker and Cravon Gillespie were eliminated from the event as China, Canada, Italy, Germany and Ghana all qualified. Lewis told "The News with Shepard Smith" that he spoke to one of the athletes from the American team who also expressed his frustration with the current system.

"They're frustrated because it's like the same, wrong, incorrect system, and making the same mistakes, and it's like, why don't we change the system, and put the other system that's successful and have some people help us set it up, so that we have a chance to do it," said Lewis.

The U.S. has not won the men's 4x100m relay since 2000 in Sydney. 

Lewis told host Shepard Smith that the issue boils down to the athletes' lives, and that he will always advocate for them. 

"My passion is to try to support athletes' lives and these athletes work their whole life to become Olympic champions, and you know what, the United States is the best team in the world in the relay, no question, but we're not even getting to the starting line," Lewis said. 

U.S.A. Track and Field, the national governing body, did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

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