Gatlin out to win races, not popularity contest

Wed Jun 3, 2015 2:35am EDT
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By Gene Cherry

EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - Justin Gatlin skipped along the track during his workout, sunglasses on, seemingly without a care in the world.

And why not?

The 33-year-old American, who has served two doping bans, rocketed to a lifetime best of 9.74 seconds in the 100 meters on May 15 and last weekend equaled his fastest ever 200m (19.68) at the Prefontaine Classic.

Adoring fans kept him busy signing autographs for nearly an hour after his 200m win, but Gatlin's popularity is far from universal.

Calls for the sprinter to be kicked out of the sport due his doping suspensions, one of which was for four years, have been widespread, coming from fellow athletes, social media and newspaper columns.

"Justin Gatlin not only threatens Usain Bolt - he threatens athletics," blazed a recent British newspaper headline.

The criticism, though, seems to have done little to deter Gatlin, who is looking for another fast 100 in Rome on Thursday.

"I have cut that emotional rope off and let that ship sail," he told Reuters when asked about the uproar.   Continued...

Justin Gatlin (USA) wins the mens 200 meter dash 19.68 (wind 0.9) and Anaso Jobodwana (RSA) places second with a time of 20.04 and Curtis Mitchell (USA) places sixth with a time of 20.44 at Hayward Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports