Well, well, well, the athletics drug cheats have hit the headlines yet again, with one Justin Gatlin first losing the 100m world title to Usain Bolt and then today losing his 200m head-to-head against the same opponent.
What is the reason this is big news then? Because American Gatlin is a convicted drug cheat, who has been caught twice drugging to improve performance, but inexplicably to many avoided a lifetime ban from the sport. He is shunned, distrusted and disrespected, if not hated, by clean competitors and ex-runner commentators. Over the past five years since he was allowed back into athletics’ competitions, he has done himself no favours by his attitude, denials, lack of remorse for cheating, and failure to take responsibility for the shame and damage he has done to his money train sport – not least leaving a finger of suspicion on those successful who follow-on.
Compare that to the popular and exciting Jamaican Bolt, who has galvanised sprinting for the past ten years, has been the big championship performer, is a multiple world record holder and a renowned world beater of natural ability, who has seized the imagination of spectators everywhere, and who shows an endearing spark of arrogance in winning.
Going into these championships Justin Gatlin was the one in form, running faster than ever before despite his advancing age, is the one with the race times that counted, the man who was a clear favourite to steal both Usain Bolt’s titles and crown. Many, many people expected Gatlin to win outright, but were dead against it, so it was hardly surprising that Bolt became the prayed-for white knight. Gatlin’s reaction at the first failure was not one of comprehension and regret – no he shunned the media after the 100m final, as if the bias against him had actually ’caused’ him to lose. Not the way to make friends and influence people was it?
Gatlin has been a prominent top sprinter, first starting on the world stage over a decade ago, but years earlier on he was previously banned for a year (reduced from two) for amphetamine (speed!) detection in a blood test. That didn’t stop him though getting caught again nine years ago for testosterone use, did it? NO. That drug failure resulting in a four year ban (reduced from the eight years that he had accepted previously to avoid a life ban). His coach then certainly had form – eight of his athletes have been caught out performance drug taking – and his coach nowadays is not drugs squeakily clean either.
Some observers are convinced that Gatlin’s recent performances can only be explained by the effects of drug use, past or present – some experts think it is likely that the effects of some drugs could be lifelong, or at least lasting decades in sportsmen, so competitors like Justin Gatlin should not be allowed in.
[Amphetamines are stimulants that can be used by drug cheating athletes to delay fatigue and increase alertness – they act on the central nervous system.
Testosterone, the male sex hormone, is a anabolic hormone similar to steroids which athletes take as ‘magic bullets’ to improve muscle size, mass and strength. It also enhances energy levels and it intensifies feelings of aggression – it is responsible for increasing fitness, bone density, and combativeness & competitiveness. This synthetic hormone might not provide an instant effect, but will work over time to bulk and fortify muscles, whence long-term build-up of it would produce results].
Ah well, was Gatlin the only villain drug cheat running in today’s 200m championship final of the world’s finest, then? Of course not – of the top supposed eight athletes not one cheat, but two of them who have been allowed by the IAAF to get away with it – but there were four in the 100m final.
Athletics today is awash with drug cheats. About a thousand of them have been caught, mostly in the last fifteen years. They often try to avoid getting caught by switching urine, using diuretics as a cleanser, or blood transfusions. Why do they take the risk though? Because the benefits heavily outweigh the punishments, don’t they? After fifty years, this is a truly ‘professional’ sport these days, and the top performers can earn guess say up to half to ten million pounds a year? And the price of getting caught? Just deny everything and blame others. Then, get a Public warning, or a few months banned from competition perhaps, when you can treat it like a training injury, refresh and concentrate on training; or possibly even a year or two, or rarely four, when you can play American football or some other remuneration sport perhaps? You might lose your ‘false world records’ as well of course, but don’t worry you won’t get done for fraud, never face police enquiries or the legislative authorities about your behaviour, so all the money you have stolen and banked by being a cheat is yours for good. Serve any ban, don’t say sorry, and you can pull on the vest again, earn big money, and even represent your Country, eh?
Can athletics ever be clean again? Don’t hold your breath. There is too much money about, isn’t there?. And that is the catalyst and the life blood of crime. Just look at Cycling and how Lance Armstrong and his fellow conspirators got away with it for donkey years (of course with the connivance of their sport authorities), and multiply that by a factor of a million.
The arrival of previously respected former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe as the new President of the IAAF, doesn’t even gender much confidence when earlier this month he set out denigrating the whistleblowers who exposed the scandalous lack of action in Athletics against top medal distance runner winners and some thousand athletes with ultra suspect dope test results, and he claimed the exposure was a ‘declaration of war’ on his sport. His priority seems to be to defend the failing existing drug system rather than introducing new effective measures, don’t you think?
[The Authorities can only detect drugs they know about so are looking for – money encourages athletes to use stuff not yet on the radar and take a minor risk of being caught later. The cheats are winning hands down so clean athletes are cheated and don’t get the money or medals they deserve]