U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin said “all is fine” with organizers of a Beijing track meet, after he previously said he was “kicked out” of the meet.
“Emotional day. All is fine with Beijing Org & I We have great relationship and look forward to being there in Aug “Worlds” & next year meet,” was tweeted from Gatlin’s private Twitter account late Tuesday night Eastern time.
Earlier Tuesday, Gatlin’s agent said the 2004 Olympic champion, five years removed from a four-year doping ban, was shut out of the meet because organizers thought Gatlin was injured, according to Reuters.
Gatlin said he initially told organizers he was unsure of competing due to a hamstring injury after he ran the fastest 100m time in the world (9.74) since August 2012 in Doha on Friday, but said he felt fine after training Monday. Nehemiah showed Reuters a Monday text message from an organizers’ representative “saying that the local organizing committee felt Gatlin should leave.”
“I was happy to stay,” Gatlin said, according to Reuters. “I’m fit and ready to run. I was cramping a lot after the fastest my body has ever run. They didn’t have any respect for me so they said: ‘You better leave,’ and they kicked me out.
“It’s crazy. I have no idea what they were thinking. I think they thought I wasn’t man enough and I might pull up in the race, or not finish it and then still ask for money.”
“But I’m not a man like that. I’m not the kind of guy to cheat people of their money or let the fans down … that’s not what I do.”
Gatlin said he would compete in the Pre Classic in Eugene, Ore., on May 30.
“I’m going to drop a bomb out there,” Gatlin said, according to Reuters.
Gatlin is a polarizing figure in track and field, a man challenging Usain Bolt for sprint supremacy but with the baggage of the doping ban and the suspicion of running his fastest times at an advanced age, 33.
“There’s nothing he can do about the criticism, the bed’s been made,” his agent, former 110m hurdles world-record holder Renaldo Nehemiah, told Reuters. “But what it does is fuel him. Not from anger, but it fuels him to combat the doubters. It gives him that extra chip on his shoulder which he can tunnel into pristine focus.
“He’s a man on a mission. He knows he has only so many races and years left so he’s making every one of them count. It’s not a distraction, it motivates him. It’s like ‘take that!'”
Gatlin’s 9.74 from Friday marked his fastest 100m time ever. He won the 2004 Olympic 100m title in 9.85 at age 22. He matched the then-world record of 9.77 in 2006, but that time was erased due to his doping ban. Gatlin’s then-coach Trevor Graham blamed a massage therapist for rubbing an illegal cream on Gatlin’s legs that caused the 2006 positive test, a claim the massage therapist denied through an attorney at the time.
Last September, Gatlin ran 9.77 again, nearly four years after his doping ban expired.
“People who aren’t students of the sport don’t realize he was a phenom before he ever got banned,” Nehemiah said, according to Reuters. “He was going to be as good as he is now, whatever.
“[Before the doping ban] He just got together with a coach [Graham] who wasn’t patient and who wanted to make a name for himself. And they also don’t realize that in the four years his body has been rested [the doping ban from 2006 to 2010] and though he might be 33, he’s like 28 years old.
“Put two and two together and they [the critics] are just very upset. … The more he wins, the more they’re disgruntled.
“He’s like the poster child for the whole sport’s ills which is unfortunate.”