Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Follow The Trace | Don't blame Gatlin

Published:Tuesday | August 8, 2017 | 8:00 AM
Usain Bolt hugs Justin Gatlin while Christian Coleman looks on.

Usain St Leo Bolt remains undeniably the greatest sprinter to have ever walked the face of the Earth. But in the midst of Bolt's grand farewell, the world is being forced to pay absolute and worthy respect to the much vilified American Justin Gatlin.

Most of the track-and-field fans worldwide hate Gatlin's guts, as was reflected in the consistent boos directed at him every time he has touched the track at these championships. Even in his moment of triumph after defeating Bolt to winning the world title, the boos rang out even louder, but the true culprits who should be hanging their heads in collective shame, and who should be getting their share of the boos are the administrators, who via their convoluted systems and rules, inexplicably let Gatlin back into the sport. The man is absolutely eligible to compete and competing is what he continues to do.

 

POSITIVE TESTS

 

Justin Gatlin first tested positive for amphetamines in 2001 and served one year of an initial two-year ban after claiming he ingested the substance in medication for Attention Deficit Disorder, he was at it again in 2006, this time testing positive for testosterone and again ended up serving half of his initial eight year ban, after he is said to have cooperated with the authorities.

After all that, the feisty American found his way back onto the track in 2010 and has since endured a career of scorn, disdain, abuse, and disrespect. My perspective on Justin Gatlin is different from most. As a stickler for intense rivalry-driven competition in sport, for me, Gatlin's contribution to Bolt's legacy has been invaluable.

To the very end, Gatlin continues to be the most credible and consistent rival of the big Jamaican throughout his storied career. Almost all the other pretenders turned out to be wimps and mere puffs of wind that fizzed in awe of Bolt. The one man with the requisite steel balls and fortitude, the lone fighter who against all the odds refused to be paralysed by Bolt's brilliance was Justin Gatlin. Without Gatlin to keep him honest, Bolt's career would have been characterised by boring and predictable processions on his way to collecting his world and Olympic titles.

Admirable human qualities such confidence, self belief, and perseverance are personified in the warrior of a performer that Justin Gatlin continues to be. At 35 years old, this victory must be seen as redemption of sorts, and a well earned and deserved moment in the sun for the human being in Justin Gatlin.

 

BOLT STILL SHINES

 

Except for spoiling the fairytale ending, this defeat hardly takes anything away from Usain Bolt's greatness. Once too often, the big man left it too late in terms of his readiness for the big occasion. It was simply one notoriously poor start too many for him to recover from. While Gatlin's entire approach to this season was different when compared to two years ago, he flew under the radar in the lead up to the championships and expertly managed the rounds, and executed perfectly in the final.

The unbiased and unemotional truth be told, there is no sprinter more deserving of the honour of beating Usain Bolt in his last individual race than Justin Gatlin, conversely the fierce and unrelenting competitor that Bolt has been throughout his career, defeat to Gatlin will be a hard pill to swallow and a difficult memory with which to walk off into the sunset. If there is ever a motivational spark that is needed to lure Usain Bolt out of retirement, Gatlin having the "last laugh" will surely provide it.

Now, the farcical and much less credible contest between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr is already capturing the imagination of the world. It is set to gross hundreds of millions of dollars for the fighters. Why not a one off one 100m decider featuring the World Champion Justin Gatlin versus the Olympic Champion Usain Bolt? That would really be "THE FINAL CHAPTER".