Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Showdown begins

Published:Saturday | August 22, 2015 | 8:00 AM
Usain Bolt (left) and Justin Gatlin.

BEIJING, China:

Jamaica's Usain Bolt will today step on to the Bird's Nest track for the first time since leaving it as the 'Sprint King' seven years ago at the 2008 Olympic Games.

This time, he returns to Beijing for the IAAF World Championships, looking to protect a legacy and extend a reign that has brought wanton success - six Olympic gold medals, 10 World Championships medals (eight gold and two silver), and the love and admiration of the world.

Bolt will this morning line up in the heats of the men's 100 metres, which start at 6:20 a.m., when he'll begin to answer the questions around whether he can hang on to his crown with the eager and in-form American Justin Gatlin looking to bomb the castle and return to the top of the pile - five years after coming back from a drug ban.

It is that same ban, which was issued to Gatlin after higher than normal levels of testosterone was found in his system, and another before that, which has many observers worried at the impact a loss for Bolt and more importantly, a win for Gatlin could have on a sport already struggling with credibility issues.

 

savvy about drug ban

 

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m and 2005 double sprint world champion, has been savvy when the topic of his drug ban is being discussed, telling reporters recently that he should be seen as more than his two bans and that he deserves the respect for his performances on the track over the past few seasons.

Not everyone agrees.

Just last year, Germany's Olympic-winning discus thrower Robert Harting asked to be removed from the list of IAAF's Athlete of the Year nominees in 2014 saying that he was insulted to be on a list with a doping offender.

When asked on Thursday at a press conference whether he felt that his showdown with Gatlin was for the 'soul' of the sport, the Jamaican had this to say.

"Initially, I am running for myself. People now say that I need to win for the good of the sport but I think there are a lot of other athletes there running clean or who have been running clean over the years, so it's not only just on me, because I can't do it by myself," Bolt said. "It's the responsibility of all the athletes to help the sport and show that the sport can go forward without drug cheats or athletes who have failed drug tests."

Bolt's true test will come on Sunday when the final of the men's 100 metres is scheduled to take place. Will the crown remain in its place, or will a new sprint king be crowned?