Seb Coe, the vice president of track and field’s international governing body, said he has “big problems” with his organization naming U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin as a candidate for its male Athlete of the Year award.
Gatlin, the fastest man over 100m and 200m this year, is four years removed from a four-year doping ban.
“I think you’d be pretty surprised if I did sit here and was sanguine about that,” the four-time British Olympic medalist Coe said, according to The Associated Press. “I personally have big problems with that.”
Current British athlete Dai Greene, the 2011 World 400m hurdles champion, questioned Gatlin’s times this season. Gatlin, 32, clocked personal bests 9.77 in the 100m and 19.68 in the 200m.
“He’s over the hill as far as sprinting is concerned — he should never be running these times for the 100m and 200m,” Greene said, according to the BBC, whose report cited scientists saying performance-enhancing drugs can affect muscles decades after use. “But he’s still doing it, and you have to look at his past, and ask how it is still affecting him now, because the average person wouldn’t be able to do that.
“It shows one of two things: either he’s still taking performance-enhancing drugs to get the best out of him at his advanced age, or the ones he did take are still doing a fantastic job.
“Because there is no way he can still be running that well at this late point in his career.
“After having years on the sidelines, being unable to train or compete, it doesn’t really add up – 9.77 is an incredibly fast time. You only have to look at his performances. I don’t believe in them.”
Gatlin’s agent, former 110m hurdles world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah, defended his client.
“Justin would have run these times, and faster, had his overzealous coach, Trevor Graham, not tried to get him there sooner than he would’ve naturally gotten there,” Nehemiah told the BBC, mentioning the coach Gatlin worked under when he failed a drug test in 2006.
“So, what Justin is doing right now, I’m not surprised by that.
“His body is rested for four years, so he wasn’t racing. And he was the talent that I always knew he was.
“It’s between the rest, and the talent that he always had, and the determination to prove everyone wrong, to prove that he was always this good.”
Coe and Greene’s comments came after German Olympic discus champion Robert Harting asked last week to have his name removed from the list of IAAF Athlete of the Year candidates because the list included Gatlin.
Gatlin was asked last week who he would vote for and said, “I guess it would be kind of cliché to vote for myself, huh,” and then tapped Qatari high jumper Mutaz Barshim.
“I say to Justin: ‘Listen, some people will never forgive you,'” Nehemiah told the BBC. “Forgiveness isn’t a part of their make-up, their DNA. This is a part of maybe your legacy that you will never overcome, because of what decisions you made years ago.”
A series of photos were posted on Gatlin’s Instagram page after the Coe and Greene stories were published.