Gatlin’s return throws up 100 metres quandary
If Justin Gatlin, back in action this week after a four-year doping ban, were to line up alongside Jamaican Usain Bolt in the 2012 Olympic 100 metres final in London, who would American fans want to win?
Having served his time, is former world and Olympic champion Gatlin worthy of his place or, as some have suggested, should all convicted dopers be forced to pin a massive asterisk on their vest to remind the world of how they made it to the top?
British athletics went through the same process with the return of Dwain Chambers and though British Olympic Association rules prevent him or any other convicted doper representing Britain in the Olympics, he has raced in European and World Championships.
As Chambers lined up in the European Championship final last week, former team mate and now TV analyst Steve Backley said that despite wanting to see a British medal he did not really know whether he wanted Chambers to do well.
Chambers was hardly alone in Barcelona as several other convicted dopers were in action, some of them winning medals.
As with Chambers, the organisers of Europe’s premier athletics meetings are keeping Gatlin at arm’s length but the promoters of a low-key Estonian meet were happy to have him back.
Gatlin won in 10.24, a good way off his now-annulled personal best of 9.77 but a decent effort after such a lengthy absence. Winner of the 2004 Olympic and 2005 world 100 metre golds, as well as the 2005 world 200m, Gatlin is still only 28 and could well be a serious contender at next year’s World Championships and the 2012 Games.
With Bolt having brought a desperately needed blast of fresh air into the sport, and particularly the drug-addled 100 metres, what would it mean if Gatlin were to stand on top of the podium again?
PHOTO: U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin greets spectators after winning the 100 metres final at the KuldLiiga meeting in Rakvere August 3, 2010. Gatlin won the final in his comeback meeting on Tuesday after a four-year doping ban in a time of 10.24 seconds. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins