4 things to consider about Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin winning 100m 2017

Ok, so drug cheating is wrong. Athletics has been marred by drug cheats for as long as we can remember.

And now Justin Gatlin has beaten Usain Bolt in the 2017 World Athletics Championships, it gives us all a cathartic excuse for some drug-cheat-bashing.

But this episode has left me feeling quite empty, and quite sorry for Mr Gatlin. I hate cheats as much as the next guy, but the vitriolic reaction to his win surely is wrong too?

So here are my four thoughts to consider regarding Justin Gatlin, and I would welcome your thoughts and opinions…

The media love to create a villain

The newspapers and broadcasters are always looking for an angle, and simply could not resist the ‘good Vs evil’ tagline of Bolt Vs. Gatlin.

Both men have committed their lives to running fast, and are damn good at it. Both have a lot to contribute to the world in terms of elite performance.

Neither have hurt anyone, or committed any crime that any normal person would recognise.

To sum this up, have a look at this headline from the telegraph:

“Usain Bolt beaten in last solo race as drug cheat Justin Gatlin gatecrashes world number 1”

Wow. That’s pretty emotive. To me this gives a view that Bolt’s destiny was stolen by an evil cheater. Do you think that’s fair?

Most of us don’t know the facts

Are you aware of what Justin Gatlin was banned for? If you are, then you are perfectly entitled to whatever view you have formed.

If you are not aware of what he did, then can you really feel confident in the “drug cheat” label? I found the following link very helpful in drilling into the detail of Justin Gatlin.

Have a read, and then see if your opinion stays as it is 😉

Demonising Justin Gatlin

I’m as guilty as the next person in leaping to opinions based on headlines and opinions. Gatlin’s win has reminded me that it’s worth looking deeper into the detail when it comes to making my own opinions.

Do you believe in rehabilitation?

Justin Gatlin’s last offence was in 2006. 11 years have passed. Is he not rehabilitated?

If you committed any of the following crimes in the UK you would be released from prison after 10 years, society believing you to be rehabilitated.

  1. Possession of firearm with intent to cause fear of violence
  2. Administering poison etc. so as to endanger life
  3. Cruelty to persons under 16.

Does the same not hold true for athletes? 11 years of clean competing? How do you feel about this?

Doesn’t everyone deserve respect?

In my opinion, the booing of Justin Gatlin was wrong. He deserves respect.

Same goes for David Beckham following his red card in World Cup 1998. Someone hanged an effigy for goodness sake.

I worry that in this post-truth world where online trolls anonymously abuse others that we are losing respect for one another. It has become the norm to disrespect others.

I believe we need to challenge disrespect whenever we encounter it. Don’t get caught up in the crowd, or follow the easy path.

Everyone deserves respect.

Any thoughts or challenges, please share them below.

One thought on “4 things to consider about Justin Gatlin

  1. Gavin James

    Such an interesting and polarising topic to raise. I think first and foremost, as you alluded to in your paragraph abut Gatlin’s rehabilitation, it is to easy for society to criminalise those who cheat in sport and view them as despicable and this is in addition to the lengthy bans imposed by sanctioning bodies. Yes, they are in the public eye and therefore role models to the youth, so they do have some form of responsibility to comply with regulations but some of the reactions by fans towards Gatlin and other athletes who have been caught doping is comical at times – almost as if the years of dedication, sacrifice, training, and let’s not forget talent, counts for nothing because it is all because of drugs that they have succeeded. If, for example, you were to take the average accountant and give them volumes of performance-enhancing drugs and a year long training programme, they would probably do well to get anywhere near domestic level athletic competition, so yes, in this sense, Gatlin deserves respect for his elite, world-level accolades, despite his flaws. He also certainly deserves respect for turning up and beating the greatest runner of all time in Usain Bolt on the night, against the odds. At least in my opinion, anyway.

    On the other hand, and contrary to my thoughts above, the flip-side to the question “have we been fair to Justin?” is, in my opinion, “have the sanctioning bodies been fair to his competitors by allowing him to return after two offences?” I say this because his first offence was for amphetamines which would have possibly given him a small advantage over the rest of his peers on that day but no lasting gains, and also he appealed against the IAAF’s decision on the grounds that the substance in question entered his system via medication. However, the second offence was for testosterone, which if taken for prolonged periods could lead to lasting, advantageous physical gains for an athlete (lean muscle mass, strength) which over the course of his career may well have deprived clean athletes of rightful results and the subsequent honours, sponsorships and endorsements that come with good results.

    A very good article about an interesting subject that stood out in my LinkedIn feed today. I wish I had the answer to the situation, it divides society and it divides my thoughts so I am still sitting on the fence!

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