Gatlin's 100m victory does not define world champs - Coe

13 August 2017 - 20:39 By AFP
Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin of the U.S. in action.
Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin of the U.S. in action.
Image: REUTERS

Doping-tainted Justin Gatlin’s 100m victory will not define the world championships, IAAF president Sebastian Coe insisted Sunday, adding that he fully understood why the American sprinter had been roundly booed.

Gatlin, who has served two doping bans — the second between 2006-10 — is in the form of his life at the age of 35, Coe saying London had witnessed the “denouement” of his 17-year history of competition and drugs abuse.

The controversial American stole Usain Bolt’s thunder in the blue riband event, Christian Coleman snatching silver to leave the 30-year-old Jamaican with bronze in his final individual race before retirement after a glittering track career.

The sell-out 60,000 crowd at the London Stadium did not react well to Gatlin, loudly booing and jeering the American not only before the race when he was introduced on the big screens, but more vociferously after the race and also at the medal ceremony.

“I don’t like to see athletes being booed, but the public do feel strongly about that,” acknowledged Coe, who said that Gatlin’s victory over Bolt was not the “perfect script“.

“I thought in a way, the athletes took the lead. The dignified way that Usain handled the situation did actually take out some of the tension out of the immediate response.” Coe added: “Justin was eligible to be here.

This was a 17-year history (since his first doping offence), the denouement we witnessed in the stadium the other night.” But Coe, who won two Olympic 1500m golds for Britain, then tried to put a more positive spin on the outcome.

Gatlin “was only a third of the story, it was important to remember that at the same time Usain was leaving the stage, that was a big, big moment, and let’s not overlook the fact that we might just have unearthed the future of sprinting for the next four or five years” in Coleman.

“No, I don’t think that (Gatlin’s win) was a moment that’s going to define the championships or the next four or five years of the sport.” But Coe didn’t hesitate in sticking in the knife by repeating his mantra that drugs cheats should ideally not be entertained on the world stage.

“The guiding principle for me is really simple,” he said. “I’d rather not see athletes who have tested positive in the past walking away and winning titles at some of the biggest moments in our sport.

“Public opinion is public opinion, we’re not here to choreograph that.” Ed Warner, co-chair of the organising committee, admitted he had been “surprised at the strength of booing” following Gatlin’s victory.

“My view as the organiser is these are paying customers who have got every right to come and express their view,” he said.

“The public is entitled to express their view about doping in our sport and people feel very passionately about it and we felt that passion come out there and then.”

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