Carl Lewis: The heir to Owens

Carl Lewis of the USA runs the anchor leg of the Men's 4x100m relay race of the Track and Field competition of the 1984 Olympic Games held on August 11, 1984 in the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)

Lewis stole the show at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, when he matched Jesse Owens' achievement of winning four gold medals in the 100m, the 200m, the long jump and the 4x100m relay, in front of his home fans.

In 1988, Lewis gained a second gold medal in the 100m after Ben Johnson was disqualified for doping, and also defended his long jump title and picked up a silver in the 200m.

And in Barcelona in 1992, the American was a winner again as he anchored the 4x100m relay team to victory and picked up a third long jump gold medal, stunning world record-holder Mike Powell in the final.

Four years later, Lewis defended his long jump title for a fourth time, when as a 35-year-old underdog he summoned up one last golden leap to reach a career tally of nine Olympic titles.

After these achievements, it was no surprise that he was named male athlete of the century by the IAAF in 1999, and sportsman of the century by the International Olympic Committee.

But despite his successes, Lewis's aloof attitude rankled with rivals and spectators alike, puncturing his popularity.

Worse was to come when in 2003, it was revealed that he failed three drugs tests for small amounts of stimulants at the US Olympic trials before the 1988 Seoul Games, where Canada's Johnson was vilified for doping.

"The climate was different then," Lewis said later. "Over the years a lot of people will sit around and debate that (the drug) does something. There really is no pure evidence to show that it does something. It does nothing."