Justin Gatlin stunned the world to win the men’s 100m final on Saturday, thereby spoiling Jamaican legend Usain Bolt’s farewell party to take the gold medal at the World Athletics Championships.
But is Gatlin’s 100m win as bad for athletics as it’s being viewed?
Let us know your thoughts as our two writers discuss the topic.
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MATT MONAGHAN, SAYS YES
The defiant finger on the lips as the boos rained down at a shell-shocked Olymic Stadium said it all about the wretched Justin Gatlin and where Saturday night’s deflating win has left an embattled sport, which might not be able to weather another shot at its shattered credibility.
Like the serial killer coming back from the dead in a budget slasher movie, the two-time convicted drugs cheat denied Usain Bolt – genuine athletic royalty – the send-off in the 100 metres his epoch-defining achievements merit.
With this anticlimactic victory at the World Championships, a detested figure who feeds off opprobrium and has done so much damage to his pursuit delivered a further blow from which it may struggle to recover in the barren post-Bolt era.
There is a stark difference between the great competitor being denied a valedictory send-off by emerging 21-year-old American Christian Coleman, and the shameless 35-year-old compatriot for whom his very presence in the absence of a lifetime ban is an affront to everything the Olympic movement was set-up to represent.
This was, distinctly, not the required passing of the baton.
The scandals which have repeatedly rocked many elite sports in the previous decade ensure every outstanding achievement must be scrutinised.
But the current facts as they stand are that the gregarious Bolt walks away after next weekend’s 4x100m with multiple Games medals, the world record time, warm affections of fans and without a failed drugs test to his name. Gatlin’s abominate, unethical reputation merely highlights the issues which have bedevilled athletics.
The IAAF matches FIFA for shame and corruption. Bolt’s clean record and inspirational triumphs have, just about, maintained athletics’ dignity in a time of strife.
He “saved” athletics by defeating the demonised Gatlin at the 2015 edition. But the unsightly past re-emerged this weekend to critically impinge a frail future.
JAY ASSER, SAYS NO
Sports are at their best when the drama is at its highest. In regards to entertainment, Justin Gatlin’s victory over Usain Bolt in the 100m at the World Championships was as dramatic as it gets. Was it the desired result for athletics? No.
The support was overwhelmingly in Bolt’s corner, with the beloved Jamaican racing the last individual 100m of his phenomenal career.
Few, if any, wanted to see the sprint superstar bested, let alone by the villainised Gatlin, who has twice been caught doping. A storybook ending is what everyone wanted, but it’s also what everyone expected.
The result we got can be characterised as many things, but one thing it can’t be labelled is ‘boring’. Sports thrive off unpredictability and if there was one negative that came with Bolt’s dominance over the years, it was that his unparalleled ability turned what should otherwise have been competitive events into a formality.
Bolt has always been a likeable figure, thanks to charisma and spotless record, so we didn’t become jaded by the dominance. He just stood too much for ‘good’ for his appeal to ever waver But light cannot exist without darkness and every hero needs a worthy villain.
There’s been even more reason to root for Bolt when his biggest rival of late has been a two-time drug cheat in Gatlin. The ‘good v evil’ narrative has been played up and played out, drawing even more eyes to athletics.
As Tony Montana said, you need people like Gatlin to point to and say “that’s the bad guy”. Otherwise, what else is there to contrast a figure like Bolt? And the bad guy needs to win sometimes, or he becomes inconsequential.
It’s the same reason why ‘Game of Thrones’ is the most popular show on television right now. So even though Bolt will no longer be around to challenge Gatlin, we’ll be eager to see someone else take up the mantle.