I felt before the 2017 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships that regardless of how Usain Bolt performed at these world championships, his final time on the world stage, that he would be remembered as the greatest sprinter we have ever seen, as well as arguably the greatest athlete, across any sport, of all time.
And despite him finishing third in the final of the Men’s 100 metres, that is the way I feel about Bolt, and will probably always feel about him.
I watched every round of the Men’s 100 metres competition, and after watching the heats, I felt that Bolt looked the best, but I also felt that the Americans of Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin also looked good, with Coleman in my view looking slightly better than Gatlin. However, Bolt wasn’t really that happy with his performance, and with the starting blocks, stating to many media outlets that they were the worst starting blocks in his career, and that it didn’t give him the stability that he needed. Maybe that was the sign of things to come?
In the semi-finals, Bolt (9.98 seconds) was beaten in the third semi-final by Coleman (9.97 seconds) by 0.01 seconds, but was still the second-fastest time overall in the semi-finals. Conversely, Gatlin finished second in the first semi-final in a time of 10.09 seconds, the equal sixth-fastest time in the semi-finals. However, a couple of hours, Gatlin showed the world that he had more in tank to take the coveted title, and get his revenge, not so much on Bolt, but more so on the general public who he believed had treated him so badly in his comeback from doping suspensions.
In the final, Coleman got a great start, Bolt a not so good one, and Gatlin somewhere in between. Both Bolt and Gatlin started to come back in the back half of the race, but with around 30 to 40 metres left in the race, I knew Bolt was in trouble!
He didn’t have the extra spring in the legs anyone, those extra two tenths of a second which he always had to defeat the opposition. Bolt didn’t come with the charge that we have all seen for the best part of a decade, Gatlin was getting closer to Coleman, who was starting to shorten stride, losing his form, and Gatlin swamped in over the top to become the world champion.
As soon as they crossed the finishing line, I knew Gatlin (9.92 seconds) had won, and I knew Bolt (9.95 seconds) had been beaten! I knew Gatlin had won well before the commentators at the stadium knew, who were all thinking that Coleman (9.94 seconds) had won! Yes, Coleman had beaten Bolt, but he did not win! He did not defeat his fellow American, and I knew when the result flashed-up on the big screen that the crowd weren’t going to like the result one little bit.
And the response? A chorus of boos, as Gatlin, at the age of 35, had silenced the critics and taken a famous victory, adding another world championship gold medal to the two (100m, and 200m) that he won in Helsinki in 2005, as well as the Olympic Games gold medal he won in Athens in 2004.
Bolt was gracious in defeat, a response which typified the great man and the great champion that he has been, but a lot of the discussion in the post-mortem after the Men’s 100 metres final was whether Justin Gatlin should have been there in the first place?
Back in 2001, Gatlin tested positive to amphetamines, and was subsequently banned from international competition for a period of two years. However, Gatlin appealed on the grounds that he had been taking amphetamines to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and that explanation meant Gatlin received a reduced suspension, and he was able to return to competition in 2002.
However, Gatlin tested positive to a banned substance for the second time in his career in 2006, this time for testosterone, or other prohibited substances, and received an eight year ban, reduced from a life ban after Gatlin co-operated fully with authorities. He then appealed the ban handed to him, and got it reduced to four years, meaning he was able to return to competition in 2010.
In this debate of whether Gatlin should have been allowed to return to the sport of athletics, it should be noted that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2004 first adopted ‘The International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions’, which then came into effect on the 1st January, 2005.
Without exploring this topic deeply to find out for sure, it seems like Gatlin’s doping case back in 2001, probably among some other doping cases, is probably one of the reasons why WADA introduced Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), so that serious medical conditions could be treated without penalty to the athlete in question, and I would not be surprised that Gatlin may still take some form of medication to treat his ADHD, and has been allowed to take it under the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) clause.
However, I think Gatlin should come out publicly, whenever he is ready, and talk about this topic in detail in relation to himself to help clear up a few perceptions people have about him, which I think would help him gain back some ground in the popularity stakes.
However, the second positive drugs test was a bad one, an awful mistake by someone who at that stage of his career had been at the top of the sport for long enough to know better, and he arguably wasted the prime years of his career.
In saying this though, I think four years was enough of a ban for that doping offence, and I believe he deserved to be there, and thus deserved to win world championship gold due to his performance in becoming the oldest man to win the 100 metres crown in world championship history.
What an achievement!
As is the career of Usain Bolt, who will ultimately be remembered as the greatest personality the sport of athletics has ever had, and will likely ever have. Let’s savour the final time he will compete at international level, the Men’s 4×100 metres relay for Jamaica, Saturday night British time (Sunday morning Australian time), assuming the team qualifies for the final, and enjoy for one last time the greatest man athletics has ever had!