London – Justin Gatlin may have sensationally regained the world 100 metres title denying superstar Usain Bolt a golden farewell but like the crowd in the London Stadium the British press slammed the fact the former drugs cheat had gatecrashed the party.
The 35-year-old American — the Olympic 100m champion in 2004 and world champion in 2005 (also winning the 200m world crown to achieve the double) — showed great character to shut out the jeering to storm home and beat young compatriot Christian Coleman and Bolt, who for once was unable to find the gas to make up for a woeful start.
Some saw it as the ultimate redemption for Gatlin to have prevailed after serving a four year ban — reduced from eight — from 2006-2010 having also been barred during his college days though his medication was for his Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
However for the merciless British media it was no such thing.
“Take GAT — Usain Bolt sunk as drugs cheat Justin Gatlin ruins his golden goodbye,” headlined The Sun.
Never one to mince their words the newspaper described how Bolt received the adulation of the crowd whilst Gatlin — who had brought a finger to his mouth after being named the winner to hush the crowd — slunk off.
“Gatlin disappeared from view after a brief run down the home straight, but when he returned for interviews he was greeted with chants of “cheat, cheat cheat” while he was live on air.”
The Mail on Sunday took a similarly dim view of Gatlin ruining the 30-year-old Jamaican’s bid for a 12th world gold.
“A terrible silence met the end of the men’s 100m final here,” wrote their correspondent.
“Not only was Usain Bolt, the great hero of the sport, denied victory in his final individual race, but it was won by two-time drugs cheat Justin Gatlin. Athletics’ worst nightmare had just unfolded in front of a watching world.”
The broadsheet press was largely in agreement although The Guardian believed that chickens had come home to roost for the sport itself.
Their criticism comes despite the sport’s governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) taking the hardest line of all sports authorities with the Russian doping scandal and have still kept their ban in place of allowing them to compete as a country.
“The 35-year-old American, who was banned twice early in his career for doping offences, is necessarily not the champion the sport wants,” commented the newspaper.
“But given its problems, it is one that many will feel it deserves.”
As for Gatlin The Guardian drew a comparison with American cartoon super hero Batman — Gatlin as a child used to dress up as him and jump on his parents bed when they were still asleep.
Latterly had said he felt more of the negative side of the character in that he had returned from his enforced break very angry and it was burning him up.
“A couple of years ago, Gatlin described himself as ‘the Batman of the track — a vigilante’,” the paper commented.
“But few in the London Stadium were celebrating the rising again of this self-styled Dark Knight.”
The Daily Telegraph took a similar tack labelling the victor as a ‘gatecrasher’ and declaring ‘you may never see a greater anti-climax’.
It also berated the sport for allowing him to return.
“There was no animosity down there on the track, but a Gatlin win, at 35, was an embarrassment to athletics, where there was a rash of drugs scandals after the 2012 London Olympics in this very stadium,” opined their chief sports writer.
“Gatlin is by no means the only top athlete who has been given a second or third chance after pharmaceutical cheating, but his transgressions stand out in sprinting, which has led the way in conning the public.”