The social media narrative of our sport is the key way to reach anyone under 35. NBC ratings are down tremendously, not because they do not tell good stories, but because they do not understand how to reach this demographic. But, as Isaac Gibson tells us, the story of Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin has been defined on social media, and Bolt is good and Gatlin has been accused of everything but being responsible for Global Warming.
How Social Media Wrote The Narrative Of Bolt And Gatlin
by Isaac Gibson
If you have been watching the Olympics, or looked at your phone today, you might have come across this picture of Usain Bolt.
Cameron Spencer took this photo of Bolt during the end of the men’s 100-meters semifinal on August 14.
It is a picture that perfectly captures how fans view Bolt without him saying a single word. He is the world’s fastest man, blurring the lines of confidence and cockiness, running against the best the world can throw at him, beating them easily enough for him to have a smile on his face.
And ever since Bolt won gold in 2008, he has captured the hearts of America, becoming one of our favorite athletes. However, in yesterday’s 100-meter final, 0.08 seconds behind Bolt was Justin Gatlin, whose name has a much darker and sinister connotation compared to the beloved Bolt.
Nearly every time I have heard Gatlin’s name said on T.V. there has been some variation of “two-time doper” said immediately after. And to most casual fans of the Olympics, that is all they will know him as, a man who is fast but cheated twice to get there. That was proven when he was introduced to a crowd boos during the Olympic final.
Even Lilly King, a swimmer for Team USA, villainized him, saying that she believed athletes like Gatlin should have been kicked off the Olympic team for being caught doping in the past.
Most people will never give Gatlin any credit for his past accomplishments. We have already seen today that no one cares about a 34-year-old man who was able to win a silver medal against the greatest sprinter of all-time because today we are talking about the picture above.
But most people do not know that Gatlin’s first offense was back when he was in college and was found with Adderall, which he had a prescription for and had been taking it for nearly a decade. Adderall contains Ritalin, which used to be prohibited by USADA. Gatlin served a one-year ban from competition. USADA would later claim that Gatlin did not cheat nor had an intention to cheat.
However, Gatlin’s second offense in 2006 is still shrouded in mystery. Gatlin claims to have been secretly given testosterone by his massage therapist, Christopher Whetstine, which he denied. Gatlin would initially have served an eight-year ban from the sport, but since he cooperated with USADA authorities by secretly recording conversations with his former coach, the ban was lowered to four years.
Regardless of what your opinion on Gatlin is, he does not deserve the title of two-time doper permanently attached to his name.
A narrative has developed of Bolt being everything good and pure in sports, especially when he has such bravado and charisma. While Gatlin has become the inverse, the man who cheated and lied to everyone and should not even be at the Olympics.
There is even a narrative that Bolt has to win for the sake of the sport. When people see Bolt win, it furthers their hopes that people can still become legends without drugs. If Gatlin were to win there would be no redemption for him, there would just be more scorn.
However, last night was just the first battle between Bolt and Gatlin. They will meet again to race in the 200 meters and the 4×100 meters.