Rightly or wrongly, Justin Gatlin bears the burden of a severely damaged sport. Being labelled a two times drug cheat, his defeats to Usain Bolt in the World Championships were euphorically celebrated by those claiming his victories were a ‘saviour for the sport’.
Although Gatlin will never gain affection from the athletic fraternity, many raise the question as to why the IAAF permitted the American to perform if they refuse to support him. This towering hypocrisy adds a further dimension to the Gatlin saga; is the hatred towards him just, or will he forever remain the focal figure to the sacrilege of world athletics.
Gatlin should be treated equally
“Once a man has served his punishment, he his due with the world” – a philosophy which would be universally employed in a dream world, but unfortunately for Gatlin, grudges can be held for an eternity.
The 33 year old is currently boycotting the BBC due to, in his beliefs, an ‘unbalanced coverage’ of the 100m final last Sunday. His agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, spoke on his behalf, where he claimed the sprinter ‘needs to be recognised as a human being’ and should not have to ‘bear the brunt’ of recent doping criticisms.
Nehemiah makes a valid point. Gatlin carries this burden more than others merely because he is the only realistic threat to Usain Bolt. In the 200m final, Qatari athlete Femi Ogunode (who had also served a ban for doping) raced in lane 2, yet there was little controversy regarding his inclusion.
The alienation of Gatlin can be deemed as very unprofessional from both the IAAF and the media. By openly expressing opinions on air, the nation can be manipulated to develop a distaste towards an athlete of whom we know nothing about. Especially when this distaste can effect the friends and family of the athlete.
Furthermore, why let the athlete race if the IAAF then refuse to protect him? Several meetings in the Diamond League have refused to allow Gatlin to race, which completely undermines the IAAF’s decision (of which they did nothing about). Personal preferences should not overpower a professional decision, as future incidents may cause a stir amongst others if these rulings aren’t consistent.
The discrimination of Gatlin is deserved
Following Nehemiah’s interview, Steve Cram and Michael Johnson were very quick to comment as to why he will always be considered a pantomime villain.
The focus of their arguments explained how Gatlin has shown no remorse or any attempt to seek forgiveness from his peers.
“Bolt is popular because of his lack of arrogance,” Cram said. “Gatlin has been unpopular because of his lack of contrition.”
“Justin has done nothing to endear himself to the public,” explained Johnson, elucidating Crams opinion. “He hasn’t even said ‘I’m against doping in the sport’.
This is certainly the key point surrounding Gatlin’s victimisation. The athlete has carried a constant chip on his shoulder throughout this lengthy ordeal, making his struggle back into the sport more troublesome than it could be.
Furthermore, Gatlin needs to appreciate the damage he has caused. As a world class athlete, expectation and responsibility is greater than a mediocre athlete. He claims he wants to have the respect of a champion, yet feels the attention he attracts is unfair – two very contradicting statements which illustrates the invalidity of Gatlin’s dispute.
The bad boy sprinter also believes that the media should remain neutral. However, with the sport in complete tatters, strong opinions from strong personalities are necessary when attempting to revive world athletics. Therefore, Gatlin’s sorrow less demeanour makes him the perfect scapegoat.
Exeposé believes that Gatlin should be treated equally by the IAAF. His reintroduction to the sport should be accepted at all venues, and Gatlin should have the right to run wherever he wishes.
However, his command of respect from fellow competitors and the media is a much more delicate issue. Other athletes may respect Gatlin as a sprinter, but it’s much harder to respect a drug cheat as a person. Additionally, the media have a responsibility to protect the sport as a whole – not an athlete who violates the sport’s rules.
Gatlin will never be a hero, granted. But with a more remorseful attitude, he may be considered an equal once again. Hopefully for him though, the damage isn’t already done.