Orville Higgins: Is Gatlin really Satan?
The much-anticipated 100m final at the current World Championships featured the mouth-watering clash between Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt. The race was dubbed as good versus evil, with Bolt, the hero, coming up against Gatlin, the villain. It was an unfortunate prelude that was completely unfair.
What has Gatlin done to be considered the evil of the sport? Athletes have been taking illegal substances for decades. Gatlin is not the first and will not be the last - two Kenyans have already tested positive in this year's Worlds - to be found guilty of having banned substances in his sytem. Why is he being singled out?
For some reason, Gatlin has seemingly rubbed the whole world the wrong way, including the governing body itself. The IAAF announced this year that nobody who was guilty of taking "hard" drugs could be eligible for Athlete of the Year.
That, in itself, makes no sense whatsoever and is clearly a 'Gatlin rule'. If the man is good and clean enough to compete, he should be clean enough to win all the accolades that his performance merits. That 'fool-fool' ruling does nothing but show bias against Gatlin and could, indeed, compromise the credibility of the award.
Let us say Gatlin had a super year, winning everything in sight, and then somebody else wins the award. Surely, that other person would feel like they won by default. That person would know that he or she was by no means the real Athlete of the Year and their award was given because the IAAF has effectively decided to make one man a scapegoat for all drug takers.
What is funny about this is that the IAAF had the opportunity to ban Gatlin for life following his second failed test. It didn't do that. He was banned for four years, and now someone seems to be regretting that he was given a second chance. Nobody apparently expected Gatlin to have been so devastating on his comeback, and now that he is proving to be a real handful, nobody is sure how to deal with him.
I've spoken with a lot of Jamaicans who just don't like Gatlin. Many of them are not even sure why. One school of thought is that he is too cocky, too brash. This is a strange world. Jackass did tell us that the 'world nuh level'.
Prior to the 200m final at the World Championships, Bolt said there was no way he would allow Gatlin to beat him. The Jamaican public, and the world at large, called that confidence. If Gatlin had said Bolt can't beat me, that would be seen as arrogance.
The real reason why Gatlin is so vilified is because he had threatened to beat the golden boy of the sport, Usain Bolt. Had Gatlin come back and performed at an average or mediocre rate, he wouldn't be seen as evil. Tyson Gay has been under the radar and has escaped public condemnation for no other reason than that he is no longer a dominant force.
Gatlin is being pilloried because he has dared to come back from his drug ban and has not taken a backward step. In many ways, he should be praised for maintaining his focus and his determination to come back and be such a brilliant performer after so long in the wilderness.
healthy dose of scepticism
Deep down, many people feel he is still doping but the system isn't catching him. That, again, is silly. If we don't trust the system, we should reason that others are also getting away, too. It can't be just about him.
The prevailing view going into the World Championships was that Bolt had to somehow save the sport by beating Gatlin. What nonsense! Very few people believe the sport is clean. A large proportion of the really fast athletes have been found guilty of doping and, therefore, most people look at the sport with a healthy dose of scepticism.
We enjoy the spectacle of these people going all out to beat each other, but very few of us would put wi neck on a block and swear that they are all clean. Nothing Bolt can do can erase the thought from people's mind that the sport is tainted. Doping will continue long after Gatlin is around.
If Gatlin is evil because of two failed tests, all those who fail one should be at least half evil, and that would include a whole bag of Jamaican athletes.
What is ironic is that we give a pass to our Jamaican athletes because their drug was 'light', and yet we are prepared to blast Gatlin for taking something he says he was taking from he was nine. We need to 'low the man!
• Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to email@example.com.