LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 21 – The booing that resounded around the London Stadium when Justin Gatlin mounted the podium to receive his gold medal as 100 metres world champion hurt the American, he admitted Monday.
The 35-year-old — whose victory denied Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt a farewell gold in the individual event — also told ITV News, contrary to popular perception, that he had apologised for his second positive doping test.
The medal ceremony produced astonishing scenes with Gatlin being booed and Bolt’s name being chanted despite taking only bronze.
Gatlin, who prior to his second ban from 2006-10 won Olympic 100m gold in 2004 and double individual sprint world gold in 2005, had shown great character to triumph in London earlier this month after he was booed intensively throughout the 100m heats and final when his name was announced.
Athletics chief Sebastian Coe had admitted his victory was not the ‘perfect script’, a remark that led to Gatlin’s agent Renaldo Nehemiah labelling his star’s treatment as ‘inhumane’.
“It did hurt because I’m not there for myself,” said Gatlin.
“I’m up there for my country. I’m up there for my supporters. I didn’t do it for myself.
“Especially at the starting line, I wasn’t there for me.
“I was there for people back at home watching who weren’t able to come.
“Maybe the boos were for me but me standing on the podium was for people that have loved me and my country that I love.”
– ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ –
Gatlin, who also won silver in the 4x100m relay as the United States got edged out by the British quartet, said perhaps the people who booed him weren’t aware of what he had gone through.
“I looked in the crowd who were barely half my age and definitely weren’t around in 2006, 2004 when everything happened to me,” said Gatlin, who was coached at the time of his second positive test by the now disgraced Trevor Graham.
“They couldn’t understand what I went through.”
Gatlin, whose first ban was a contentious one and was reduced on appeal as it stemmed from medication he was taking for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) when he was a student, had a message for those who booed him.
“Go further than being a fan,” he said.
“Get to know an athlete… They all have stories, backgrounds, take the time to read the fine details rather than the headlines.
“Become a fan of the sport. Know who you’re rooting for and know who you’re booing.”
Gatlin, who has toyed with the idea of trying to go on until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, said despite having already apologised he would issue another one.
“If they want an official apology, I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” said Gatlin, who revealed his original letter of apology to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had been suppressed for several years before being made public in 2015.
“I apologise for any wrongdoings I’ve brought onto the sport. I love the sport.
“That’s why I’ve come back and run to the best of my abilities. I have worked hard to right my wrongs.”