The destruction of athletics
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.
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