Hubert Lawrence | And the choir sings ...
The latest episode of The World Hates Justin Gatlin makes my head spin. A man purporting to be his agent claims that Gatlin's coach is involved in the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. The person in question is no whistle-blower but in fact appears to have been duped by undercover investigative reporters posing as movie producers who wanted drugs to build the body of a star in an upcoming epic.
At the end of this episode, the agent says that he was onto the 'movie executives' all along and simply went along with the charade and has reported them to the authorities. The coach, whom Gatlin has since fired, has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.
Guilty or not, he may well be taking legal advice. That's what I'd be doing.
Here's where it gets dodgy. The 'agent' isn't Gatlin's agent. That job belongs to former 110 metre world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah. Secondly, the hidden video that recorded the chat with the agent and the undercover reporters doesn't nail Gatlin to the cross. Had he not tested positive for illegal substances twice, with the first offending item being medication for an attention deficiency disorder, people might not have joined the dots so readily and directly.
What's worse is that his coach, the retired world class sprinter Dennis Mitchell, tested positive near the end of his running career. So did his wife, 2008 Olympic Games 100 metre hurdle finalist Damu Cherry. Everyone makes mistakes and those bad days may well have been behind them when Gatlin came back to the track in 2010 but he must now regret choosing Mitchell as his coach at that point.
Pending proof of the inferences from the undercover video, Gatlin has been tarred guilty by association and is being buried by his own past.
The timing is bad. This latest episode comes just when gentlemanly conduct was winning Gatlin some good will. His kind words about the incomparable Usain Bolt at the London World Championships and his quiet demeanour there stood to his credit. For many observers, the choir of boos that heralded his every move in London was excessive to say the least.
The crowds there and at the 2012 London Olympics are the best in the world but they roasted Gatlin even as he went the podium for his gold medal won ahead of compatriot Christian Coleman and Bolt in the 100 metres. Yet, with proof of current wrongdoing by the beleaguered World Champion still to be tabled, the choir is singing again.
Now the lyrics are 'I told you so'. For Gatlin's sake, the scriptwriter had better concoct a happy ending.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.