Justin Gatlin, photo by PhotoRun.net
In the USATF press conference today, there were, of course questions about Justin Gatlin. Never mind that he was not there, for some reason, the easy story do here is the good versus bad, or better yet, clean versus dirty. The following eight thousand word missive should, if one has a critical eye, make one think about the journey that Justin Gatlin has taken over the past decade, and the issues in our sport and culture.
Alan Abrahamson, of 3WireSports.com, asked me to read this piece last night, and I was astounded. I thought that I knew a bit on the Gatlin affair, but, obviously, I did not.
Please read this piece, and note that Alan Abrahamson is quoting from the actual court and arbitration records. His blog, 3wiresports.com, is a must read.
Justin Gatlin, and a run for redemption, by Alan Abrahamson, for 3WireSports.com, reprinted with permission
When Justin Gatlin first got the news — this was nine years ago — that he had tested positive for the banned substance testosterone, he literally fell out of the truck he was driving.
“While we were on the phone,” his mother, Jeanette, would later testify, “all I could hear was him screaming and screaming on the other end, and how, no, no, no, no, I’m dead, I’m dead. And we were afraid that he was going to do something to himself. He was in North Carolina, and we were in Florida. You know, to — you can’t get there. You can’t keep him safe from doing whatever. He was just — he was — he was — he was screaming. He was screaming and yelling, and he was driving, and he was in his truck, and he fell out. He stopped, and he fell out, and he fell apart. He just kept on saying, ‘I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead. It’s over, it’s over, it’s — I’m dead, Mommy, I’m dead.’ “
Justin Gatlin is assuredly not dead, and his track and field career is now the farthest thing from over. For the past two-plus years, Gatlin has been the best sprinter on Planet Earth, the fastest guy anywhere anytime. Many experts expect him not only to challenge but to defeat Usain Bolt in the 100 meters at the world championships, which begin this weekend at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. And maybe the 200, too.
Justin Gatlin in June at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, after running 19.57 to win the 200 at the U.S. nationals // Getty Images
“That’s what everyone is waiting to see,” Maurice Greene, the Sydney 2000 100 gold medalist, said Friday.
Here in Beijing as a television commentator, Greene added, referring to Bolt, “How prepared is he? Because you know Justin is prepared.”
That 2006 test was Gatlin’s second go-around with the doping authorities; he would end up being banned for four years. The first test came in 2001. Because the facts and circumstances of both tests have been not just under-reported but thoroughly misunderstood, Gatlin has become to many with an interest in track and field something like Public Enemy No. 1 — particularly when compared, as he often is, to the larger-than-life Bolt.
The British press in particular has been given to depicting the races here in Beijing as a clash of “good versus evil.”
In March, the Telegraph, one of Britain’s leading dailies, called Bolt a “superhero.” A few days ago, the same newspaper included Gatlin on a list of what it called “the most hated sportsmen in the world,” a “sport-by-sport breakdown of the most loathsome individuals.”
At a news conference Thursday, Bolt was asked if he was the “savior” of track and field. He said, speaking generally, not referring to Gatlin, “People are saying I need to win for the sport. But there’s a lot of other athletes out there running clean, and who have run clean throughout their whole careers. I can’t do it by myself. It’s a responsibility of all the athletes to take it upon themselves to save the sport and go forwards without drug cheats.”
The curious thing is that Justin Gatlin is the farthest thing from loathsome. As Greene said, referring to both Bolt and Gatlin, “Take out everything that has to do with sports. They’re both good guys.” David Oliver, the U.S. 110-meter hurdles standout, said about Gatlin, “I’m rooting for him and I hope he does well.”
Gatlin comes from a strong family. His father, Willie, served with distinction for more than 20 years in the U.S. military, a Vietnam veteran, and the son wears the red, white and blue national uniform with pride. Justin Gatlin is great with kids and with track and field fans. When he got tagged in 2006, his first instinct was to cooperate with the federal government in its BALCO investigation, which he did extensively. Since coming back to the sport five years ago, he has not tested positive, and be assured that he is a marked man.
For the complete story, please go to: http://www.3wiresports.com/
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