Beijing organizers say they did not 'kick out' Gatlin

Wed May 20, 2015 3:03pm EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Organizers of Wednesday’s Beijing World Challenge have denied that they kicked out Justin Gatlin from their meeting and said they were “perplexed” by the controversial sprinter’s claim.   

The meeting went ahead without its star attraction Gatlin, who had stormed out of Beijing on Tuesday, claiming that he was ready to run the 100 meters but had been told by organizers he was not wanted.   

Yet in comments to news agency Xinhua, the meeting’s organizing committee painted a very different picture on Wednesday, saying there had been “no possibility” that they would not have allowed the world’s current top sprinter to compete.   

“We had been preparing the event assuming Gatlin would run the race. There was no way we 'kicked out' the athlete. So we have been perplexed by what they said,” Liu Jie, deputy director of the organizing committee told Xinhua, responding to the claims from Gatlin and his manager Renaldo Nehemiah.    

“Nehemiah did not communicate with us before he announced Gatlin's withdrawal at yesterday's news conference. And we never got to speak with Gatlin in person.”   

He added that he did not even know that Gatlin was going home until he heard Nehemiah announce it at the eve of meeting press conference. By that time, Gatlin would already have been at the airport.   

Nehemiah had said before flying home on Tuesday that he had been told by organizers’ representatives that Gatlin should leave.   

Nehemiah believes it was because Gatlin had informed them on arrival from Doha that he had a hamstring injury concern, making organizers worry that he would make a late withdrawal on the day of the meeting, as happened with world sprint hurdles champion David Oliver last year.   

Either way, it seems clear there was a serious breakdown in communication between the two sides.      Continued...

Justin Gatlin from the U.S. competes in the men's 100 meters event during the Diamond League meeting in Doha, Qatar May 15, 2015.  REUTERS/AK Bijuraj