The de­struc­tion of ath­let­ics

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - WORLD OF SPORT - Chief sports writer Alan Swann shares his views

If Usain Bolt re­ally did ‘save ath­let­ics’ (copy­right Steve Cram), Justin Gatlin has just de­stroyed it again. A two-time drugs cheat win­ning the men’s blue riband event at the 2017 World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don is as bad as it gets, es­pe­cially as it ru­ined su­per­hero Usain Bolt’s fond farewell from the 100m.

Bolt’s re­ac­tion (he in­sisted the in­evitable boo­ing of Gatlin was un­fair) was that of a true sports­man, but in re­al­ity ath­let­ics as a sport has just re­ceived the bad head­lines it de­serves.

The weak and in­ef­fec­tive pur­suit of the cheats has been fol­lowed by weak and in­ef­fec­tive pun­ish­ments of those who have been found out.

Dop­ing of­fences de­serve life bans no mat­ter what cre­ative ex­cuses su­per­fit hu­mans come up with for tak­ing cough medicine or un­wit­tingly hav­ing a dodgy cream shoved on your back­side.

Gatlin’s re­turn from two bans to win a sprint gold medal at 35 is age-de­fy­ing, but ap­par­ently all his own work with no help from clever chemists in the back­ground.

Many won’t be­lieve he’s clean now. Many of those would have been boo­ing him af­ter his gold medal race and dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony. A pre­sen­ta­tion in­ci­den­tally that took place on the same day Jes­sica En­nis picked up a be­lated gold medal fol­low­ing the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of a drugs cheat from Rus­sia.

BBC pun­dit Michael John­son’s com­ment that Gatlin isn’t the only doper com­pet­ing in Lon­don right now is no doubt true, but point­less. Gatlin’s dra­matic win will dom­i­nate these games long af­ter their con­clu­sion.

And that means a pa­thetic at­tempt to rout cheats from ath­let­ics is once more in the spotlight.

It was a dis­as­trous day for the sport and Seb Coe’s hope­lessly in­ad­e­quate lead­er­ship of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions was again high­lighted.

Coe claimed he’d have been hap­pier if Gatlin had been banned for life and yet there he was hang­ing a gold medal around the man’s neck in a shame­less bout of hyp­o­crit­i­cal self-pro­mo­tion from the for­mer politi­cian.

I just hope Mo Farah’s il­lad­vised as­so­ci­a­tion with his coach Al­berto Salazar doesn’t come back to haunt him.

I love watch­ing Farah. He’s a phone­me­nal ath­lete ca­pa­ble of win­ning a race from the front, from be­hind, against teams who gang up on him and when op­po­nents try and trip him up.

But he will be for­ever tainted by as­so­ci­a­tion if the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Salazar’s meth­ods in the United States goes badly. I ad­mire Farah’s loy­alty to his coach, and I take his reg­u­lar as­ser­tions of drug-free run­ning as true, but the Salazar con­nec­tions will be thrust firmly back into the spotlight thanks to Gatlin (pic­tured right with Bolt), par­tic­u­larly by mis­chievous Amer­i­cans won­der­ing why the Brit gets such an easy ride from his home crowd.

Sport loves a dra­matic fin­ish, but Gatlin v Bolt went too far. Pan­tomime vil­lains are not sup­posed to win.

Have your say . . . email, or twit­ter @PTAlanSwann

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