Justin Gatlin's father slams critics and booing fans

American Justin Gatlin on the podium after winning the gold medal ahead of Usain Bolt in the men's 100m final at the World Athletics Championships. He has served two drugs bans, in 2001 and 2006.
American Justin Gatlin on the podium after winning the gold medal ahead of Usain Bolt in the men's 100m final at the World Athletics Championships. He has served two drugs bans, in 2001 and 2006.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Father claims the 100m world champion is a reformed character as doping row reignites

LONDON • The father of controversial 100m world champion Justin Gatlin has called on British fans to lay off his son, claiming that they are misinformed.

Willie Gatlin also revealed that he and his wife get on so well with Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt's parents that they even go on tours together.

"The people booing need to read the reports," he said in reference to Gatlin's two drugs bans. "He has never committed a crime. They need to go and look at what was said."

Gatlin Sr said the criticism from fans and the media would not hurt his son. "He is very strong and can deal with it. Only here. He only gets it here."

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On Sunday, Gatlin was booed by a minority of the crowd in the London Stadium as he picked up his World Championships gold medal from Sebastian Coe, the IAAF president.

He is due to meet Bolt again in the 4x100m relay, which starts on Saturday.

Willie said his son, who has served two drugs bans, had been fully rehabilitated in the United States and that he could be a role model for children. "He gets invited into schools all the time and does lots of talks," Gatlin Sr said.

Having previously said that he would feel "queasy" about Gatlin beating Bolt, Coe reiterated his desire to have life bans for dopers.

"I am unreconstructed on this," he said. However, Coe said constant attempts to bring in life bans had been thwarted by the courts and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Retired British athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill also backed the call for life bans after receiving her World Championships gold medal upgrade from 2011.

"He (Gatlin) has served his ban and is allowed to come back, and that's where the problem is," the 2012 Olympic heptathlon champion said. "We should have lifetime bans where drug cheats are not allowed to come back into the sport."

Willie's claim that people did not know the details of his son's case appeared to be backed up when Coe told BBC's Sportsweek that Gatlin's first failed test for amphetamines in 2001 was at the "more serious end" of the spectrum.

The arbitration panel report stated it was "at most, a technical or paperwork" violation. The panel accepted the test was down to medication he had been taking for attention deficit disorder.

Gatlin claims that his second positive test for testosterone in 2006 was down to a masseur applying a new product to his legs, with the intent to sabotage him. The therapist denied that was the case.

The subject of Gatlin also prompted Michael Johnson, the former Olympic champion, to clash with his BBC colleague Steve Cram.

Johnson asked why Cram had singled out Gatlin above all other dopers in London. "How is it that Gatlin stands out in your mind and in other people's minds above all the other drug cheats?" he said.

Cram replied: "I refuse to be an apologist for Justin Gatlin."

Gatlin, himself, denied that he was a bad boy. "I congratulate every athlete," he said. "That doesn't sound like a bad boy to me. It sounds like the media want to sensationalise it and make me the bad boy because Usain's a hero."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'Sprinter's dad slams critics'. Print Edition | Subscribe