Justin Gatlin: He's Back On The Right Track


Gatlin_Justin200Q-USOlyTr16.jpGJustin Gatlin, photo by PhotoRun.net

Justin Gatlin had a superb Olympic Trials. First, he won the 100 meters, and then, he won the 200 meters. Here is how Elliott Denman assesses his ten days in Eugene.



When he gets to Rio next month, many members of the credential-bedecked international press will be sure to greet Justin Gatlin with the same old epithet: "Drug Cheat."

He knows it, he expects it, he'll count on it.

And he'll be prepared to deal with all of them.

As a matter of fact, his preparations are getting better by the day.

He'll stare them all down, remind them all he's been telling his side of the story (of the drug suspension that kept him out of action for most of the 2006-7-8-9 seasons) ever since his return to the eligibility list and that he has no intention of hashing over any of it again..ever...ever.

It's long behind him now, he's turned all the corners, he's an athlete again, a champion athlete again, and one amazing competitor.

Love him or leave him, he's only prepared to deal with those of the former persuasion.

The Gatlin seen at these 2016 USA Olympic Trials was amazing.

He's 34 now and better than ever, powered (let us hope, let us pray) by clean living, hard training and pure determination.

He's surely been drug-tested a zillion times since his return to action. There's never been even a whiff of his testings being anything but good news.

After claiming the 100 here last Sunday in 9.80 over young sensation Trayvon Bromell (9.84 and all over 21 years old on the 10th of July) with Marvin Bracy (9.98) number three and Michael Rodgers (10 flat and likely getting 4x100 relay duty) in fourth, Gatlin turned his attention to "the deuce."

Sure enough, Gatlin roared right back to take the half-lapper on Saturday in 19.75, edging 400 champion Lashawn Merrittt (19.79) with Ameer Webb (20 seconds flat) taking the third spot, and the scholastic sizzlers Noah Lyles (20.09) and Michael Norman (20.14) right behind.

Lyles may yet get the Rio 200 ticket if Meritt decides to focus on bringing the 400 title back to the nation that once "owned" the event before Kirani James of Grenada upset all that hegemony at London in 2012.

Actually, some of Justin Gatlin's best work came just after the 200 win.

Like almost all of us, he realizes his nation is at a crossroad. Bad stuff is going on. Some would like to see things get even worse. Some would like to see Our homeland, and all it stands for, torn to shreds. Some out there don't really appreciate that we are "one nation, indivisible......."

The bad stuff out of Louisiana and Minnesota last week has a lot of folks talking, and asking, "just where are we headed? "

Handed the microphone, Justin Gatlin took a moment to address this subject and hopefully his Hayward Field audience was paying some attention.

"There's a lot going on in America the last four days," he said. "It's especially sad to have it happen around the Fourth of July, when we should all be coming together. I challenged the crowd.

" I said, 'Take the love in this stadium and share it with someone.' "

You've got to love those words from Justin Gatlin. Given his current form, you've also got to love his chances of outrunning Usain Bolt in Rio. And you've got to walk in an opposite direction once they - as they surely will - call him those nasty things and resort to familiar language in Brazil.

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