Gatlin hopeful World Championships will alter his image

Simon Peach 04:59 31/08/2015
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Needing an image change: Gatlin.

Justin Gatlin says his double silver medal performance at the world championships will change the public perception of him.

Athletics is currently experiencing one of the most difficult times in the sport’s history, with the spate of doping allegations dominating the build-up to the event in Beijing.

Gatlin has been cast as the No1 villain having previously failed two drugs tests, leading to a certain sense of relief when Usain Bolt pipped him to gold in the 100 and 200 metres.

The American’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, said his client was unfairly carrying the burden of all drug cheats and the sprinter himself hopes these championships have changed the public’s perception.

Gatlin, when asked to sum up the event, said: “A relief because I worked very hard this season. I ran, even in regular season, very hard and through all my ups and downs I still came out here.

“I think I showed poise and I showed that I am a human being. I am happy to be running and get ready for next year. I wouldn’t say (I felt any) pressure. I would just say obviously I am the most criticised athlete in track and field.”

– Also: Usain Bolt leads Jamaica to 4*100 gold
– Doping: Schippers rejects speculation after win
– Rio 2016: Bolt hints at post-Olympic retirement

It certainly promises to be another fascinating battle between Gatlin and Bolt at the Olympics next summer, even if the American accepts he is now a “grey wolf”.

There are wisps of silver in 33-year-old’s hair, yet he feels – and indeed his times suggest – a podium-topping display is within reach.

“I have my gold medal at home,” he said. “I have been Olympic champion before. I have my medals on my wall and I know what it feels like to be a champion and that is what really is my beacon.

“My beacon to be able to keep going and keep going strong to be at the top. Just to be able to say ‘you know what, I want a taste of that championship again’.”

Victory for Gatlin in Rio de Janeiro would certainly raise some uncomfortable questions, but that doesn’t bother him.

“You know, at the end of the day, I have been a man,” he said. “I think this championship has shown I am a human. I stood up and answered questions. I haven’t dodged any reporters. I just want to be a runner. That’s what I get paid to do.”

The Guardian on Sunday reported it had seen a letter from Gatlin sent to the IAAF in 2010 expressing his remorse, while Nehemiah said his client can do more.

He told the paper: “When people say he never apologised, I say: ‘You haven’t done your homework’. And the IAAF, who know this, have never come out and said anything, which I am very sad about.

“Justin has apologised. What is he supposed to do, go to every country and say sorry?”

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