BEIJING (REUTERS) - Controversial sprinter Justin Gatlin ran into a new row on Tuesday when he flew home on the eve of the Beijing World Challenge meeting, claiming the organisers had told him they did not want him to compete.
The American, who has served two doping bans but is currently the world's fastest man, said he had planned to run as the headline 100 metres act in Wednesday's meeting despite slight injury concerns but was told he was not wanted.
Gatlin, who had ran the fastest century sprint of his life and the quickest in the world this year at 9.74 seconds in Doha on Friday, told reporters as he left for the airport to fly home to Florida that he was "upset" by the lack of respect shown to him.
Nobody from the meeting organisers was available to respond to the 33-year-old Gatlin's comments.
Gatlin, who had flown from Doha straight to Beijing on Saturday, said he had initially told the organisers that he had suffered cramping in a tight hamstring and dehydration following the flight and was not sure about his fitness to compete.
Yet after coming through a training session on Monday, he felt confident he would be fit to compete at a meeting where he has starred before. "I was happy to stay. I'm fit and ready to run. I was cramping a lot after the fastest my body has ever run," Gatlin said. "They didn't have any respect for me so they said 'you better leave' and they kicked me out."
Gatlin's manager Renaldo Nehemiah showed Reuters a text message from an organisers' representative sent to him on Monday, saying that the local organising committee felt the athlete should leave.
Nehemiah claimed that the organisers had made Gatlin and his team pay all their flight and hotel costs, amounting to about US$12,000 (S$16,000). "It's been costly," he said.
The sprinter, who has become a polarising figure in the sport after his drug bans, was clearly bewildered and angry as he left for Beijing airport with his physiotherapist.
"I thought I was competing. I ran the fastest time by anyone since 2012 in Doha and my body was a little whacked. I had respect for the organisers telling them that I felt dehydrated but they didn't have any respect for me," he added. "It's crazy. I have no idea what they were thinking. I think they thought I wasn't man enough and I might pull up in the race, or not finish it and then still ask for money.
"But I'm not a man like that. I'm not the kind of guy to cheat people of their money or let the fans down... that's not what I do."